Sunday, 25 June 2017

Azerbaijan GP Report - Ricciardo cruises through the carnage

Daniel Ricciardo won today's Azerbaijan Grand Prix. He started tenth after a qualifying crash, and worse made a stop on lap six to clear debris from his brake ducts, leaving him down in 19th.

Daniel Ricciardo came through the Baku carnage to win
Photo: Octane Photography
Valtteri Bottas finished second in today's Azerbaijan Grand Prix. And in case you think that bit sounds halfway normal then consider that the Finn lost a lap at the start of this one, after a second turn collision with Kimi Raikkonen. And that he only got his second place literally on the finish line, by a tenth of a second. F1 imitating the end of the Derby.

Lance Stroll finished third in today's Azerbaijan Grand Prix. He started eighth, and up until two weeks ago was considered an F1 pariah. Yet possibly this weekend he made fewer mistakes than anyone.

Only then did we have the season's chief suspects Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton.

Yes, it underlines what a unlikely race the Azerbaijan Grand Prix was. Sometimes you should judge a book by its cover.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Baku Qualifying - Expecting the expected

It looked in advance like it was happening again. And it did happen again. Just not in the way we thought it was happening again.

Lewis Hamilton stunned on his way to another pole position
Photo: Octane Photography
In yesterday's practice Mercedes struggled, and the story seemed familiar. A low grip, temporary track. Slow corners. The car struggling apparently to get its tyres in range. Montreal, wherein it had bounced back in just those sort of circumstances, was by the looks of things a one-off.

Yet, when it mattered, not a bit of it. Come this morning's running silver was back on top in that highly familiar way. But in another as-seen part of the tale it looked that of the Merc pair Valtteri Bottas - like in Sochi and Monaco - was the better equipped in such moments. Come qualifying though, not a bit of that either.

Lewis Hamilton on a track that requires brave shaving of walls and acrobatic skills was again on another level even of the two Mercs. At last providing a bit that makes sense. And Mercedes more generally looked even further ahead of the rest than before.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Azerbaijan GP Betting Preview - A close call

This column is losing what little reputation it had. In Monaco I backed Lewis Hamilton to win and we got Sebastian Vettel. In Canada? Yes, you guessed.

Sebastian Vettel versus Lewis Hamilton
continues to be hard to call
Photo: Octane Photography
And this one in Azerbaijan is far from safe ground to strike back. As in advance it looks a very close call between the usual suspects Ferrari and Mercedes - or more to the point between Vettel and Hamilton. This is reflected in the odds, with Lewis even money to win this Sunday and Seb 2/1.

Prior to Montreal we felt safe in assuming that this street track in Baku was the sort to trip up Mercedes in 2017 - low grip, slow turns... But in Montreal as the opening paragraph intimates Merc surprised us by taking a one-two on precisely that type of circuit. This weekend much will hinge on whether the Brackley squad has indeed had a eureka moment, or whether Canada was a one off.

Adding to the confusion, last year in Baku Lewis on Friday looked set to dominate - which made sense given it's an acrobatic track that rewards bravery. But after that he went on to have one of his off weekends.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Baku Preview - Through the looking glass

As we know, F1 does like to exist beyond the looking glass.

Last year's inaugural Baku race was not as expected
By crossland_alan - https://www.flickr.com/photos/57293550
@N07/27719040512/in/dateposted/, CC BY-SA 2.0,
 https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=55250694
Twelve months ago the sport rocked up to a new street circuit in Baku, Azerbaijan, expecting something "not like anything we've seen before in F1".

Certainly its challenges looked different. A real downtown circuit. Plenty of forbidding walls. Much of it claustrophobic with a twisty narrow section around the castle reminiscent of Mirabeau-Station Hairpin-Portiers at Monaco. But also a 2.1 km straight longer even than anything at Monza.

In the event much was familiar though. Based on the GP2 races we expected frolics aplenty - safety cars and trips down narrow escape roads making it a lottery. Also there was an ultra generous DRS zone with even quicker cars vulnerable to being overtaken, particularly on restarts. All making it a matter of survival.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Firstpost Video - Le Mans Special

Even your average F1 fan knows that in motorsport there's nothing quite like the Le Mans 24 Hours. And in a special extra Firstpost Pole Position video, Kunal Shah of the Inside Line F1 Podcast tells you why you should tune in this weekend. You can watch below:

Friday, 16 June 2017

New Motorsport Week article: The relentless Sebastian Vettel

Photo: Octane Photography
Sebastian Vettel's run of finishing in the top two of every race in 2017 ended in Canada last weekend. But even so his momentum felt unchecked.

That's because it was another fine drive, recovering from an early delay from changing his front wing. The Ferrari challenge again doesn't appear to have much intention of leaving the stage.

In my latest article for Motorsport Week I explain why Lewis Hamilton will have to go some to beat Sebastian Vettel in 2017. Because he's gone into relentless mode, the sort that we've seen precisely before now

You can have a read here: https://www.motorsportweek.com/news/id/14983

Inside Line F1 Podcast Special - Karun Chandhok Talks Le Mans & F1

There's seemingly more excitement and anticipation about the 2017 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Is this thanks to Fernando Alonso's efforts to bring the 'Triple Crown of Motorsport' back in the limelight?

Photo: Octane Photography
In this special episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast, Mithila and Kunal talk to Karun Chandhok, former Formula 1 and Formula E driver and India's Le Mans specialist, about the legendary endurance race this weekend, his best memory of this race and who he thinks are the favourites to win.

If you're a Formula 1 fan all confused about the various 'classes' at Le Mans (the LMP1, LMP2 and the others), we have Chandhok explain it to us in his typical simplistic style. And of course, since we had Chandhok captive, we decided to ask him some Formula 1 questions too. Tune in to know who his bet for the 2017 Drivers' Championship title is.

(Season 2017,  Episode 23)

Subscribe to the Inside Line F1 Podcast on iTunes and audioBoom for your weekly dose of Formula 1 humour. 

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Inside Line F1 Podcast - What VER Has In Common With VAN, STR & ERI

Max Verstappen is 'fed up'! But he's had such a start to the 2017 Formula 1 Season - 3 DNFs out of 7 races, so we don't blame him. If he's 'fed up' in just 7 races, we wonder what state would poor Fernando Alonso be in after nearly 50 such races with McLaren Honda.

Alonso to Williams in 2018? Or will it be the IndyCar series? If only the McLaren win in the 'F1 Raft Race' influenced his decision. But very coyly, McLaren seem to be distancing themselves from Honda's recurring and seemingly unsolvable woes. What are their plans for 2018? Renault?

In this week's episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast, Mithila and Kunal express disappointment with Daniel Ricciardo, debate Force India's no-use of team orders, and wonder if Toto Wolff has a veiled message for Nico Rosberg - should he decide to make a comeback. Tune in!

(Season 2017, Episode 22)

Subscribe to the Inside Line F1 Podcast on iTunes and audioBoom for your weekly dose of Formula 1 humour.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

How To Conquer 24 Hours of Le Mans, by Select Car Leasing

With the 24 Hours of Le Mans this weekend, Select Car Leasing thought it'd delve into the event and check out the cars in detail and see how they're made in order to deal with this gruelling race.

It also got Giedo van der Garde to tell us how he prepares for Le Mans 24 Hours and about the chief differences between Le Mans and Formula 1.

While in something that is vital to many motorsport fans it's also thrown in a few tips to help you watch the full 24 hours without nodding off...

How To Conquer 24 Hours of Le Mans
How To Conquer 24 Hours of Le Mans by SELECT CAR LEASING.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Firstpost Video - Canadian Grand Prix Review

Here's the latest Firstpost Video Grand Prix Review.

Mithila and Kunal from the Inside Line F1 Podcast look at last weekend's Canadian Grand Prix. They talk about Mercedes's post-Monaco bounce back, Sebastian Vettel's comeback, the Force India pace and soap opera, Romain Grosjean, Fernando Alonso and other Montreal matters. You can watch below:


Canadian Grand Prix review for Motor Verso - Great expectations

Photo: Octane Photography
Most of the expectations in advance of the Canadian weekend, and race, were in the event confounded. Perhaps appropriate given Montreal races are known for being off the wall (metaphorically and sometimes literally).

Yes Mercedes bounced back at a track that was thought to be the sort it struggled on, and claimed a one-two. And of the pair local specialist Lewis Hamilton was on another level. But equally Ferrari isn't relenting, and the quality of Sebastian Vettel's recovery drive underlined the point.

So not all expectations were confounded.

Here's my review of the Canadian GP action for Motor Verso: http://www.motorverso.com/canadian-gp-2017-report-great-expectations/

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, 11 June 2017

Canadian GP Report - A walk in the park

Apparently Mercedes's calculations in advance called it a dead heat. There was, we expected, to be nothing between Merc and Ferrari in this one.

Lewis Hamilton won in a race of one
Photo: Octane Photography
We should have known though that things are rarely that simple in Montreal. The bald facts are that in the Canadian Grand Prix Merc took an imperious one-two. And of its driver pairing Lewis Hamilton made good on his local specialist status by existing in another race, to the point that the TV director appeared to disregard him. Lewis's engineer, not just because of the Ile Notre Dame surroundings, called it a "walk in the park".

It was made so from the off. Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari usually is to be feared from the launch but today it wasn't stellar and from second he was mugged at turn one by a racy Valtteri Bottas (who looked for a nanosecond that he might spear his Mercedes team mate) and a racier Max Verstappen, who came from nowhere to sweep around the outside to take second place. Seb thus was fourth and already the race had gone a long way to be framed.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Montreal Qualifying - The empire strikes back

It could hardly have been in a less appropriate place. But in usually-madcap Montreal, normality returned.

Lewis Hamilton - and Mercedes - struck
back in Montreal's qualifying
Photo: Octane Photography
It was the sort of track that had been tripping previously-imperious Mercedes in 2017 - low grip; slow turns; softest tyre compounds. But the silver team might be learning at last.

Practice running suggested it was at least in the game this time; unlike in Monaco its pace didn't evaporate as the weekend went on. And in qualifying the story got more familiar, with the Mercs growing in potency as the hour went on.

And Lewis Hamilton - who'd especially struggled in the circumstances outlined - claimed pole position by acing the Montreal track. That last bit being something altogether more usual. Ever the showman he saved by far his best for last too.

In Retrospect: The 1999 European Grand Prix, by Steven Critchley

F1 action will return to Baku's treacherous street circuit on 25 June, after a successful hosting of last year's European Grand Prix, which returned to the calendar after a three-year absence. This time, it will be host to the inaugural Azerbaijan Grand Prix, once more testing the technical abilities of constructors in a more diverse way, while also forcing drivers on the circuit to time their overtakes to perfection.

As a street circuit, Baku offers little margin for error from anyone, regardless of how experienced or decorated they may be. Another battle of Ferrari versus Mercedes is expected, but the negation of the disparity that once existed is reflected by Mercedes's Valtteri Bottas being priced at 28/1 on bet365's F1 betting odds to win this year's title. However, the unpredictability that typically characterises a new F1 circuit was in full evidence last year, when Sergio Perez enjoyed a rare moment in the sun in an unfancied Force India car and finished third.


19 June 2016: Drivers speak to press after the inaugural F1 race in Baku. 

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Canadian GP Betting Preview - Value with Vettel

Pride comes before a fall, as my mother likes to say.

There are plenty of reasons to think Sebastian Vettel
 will lead again this weekend
Photo: Octane Photography
After starting to crow last time about how this betting preview column was developing rather a charmed existence, in Monaco it had a car crash. But for a few reasons, Canada this weekend could be a good place for a bounce back.

A few themes have developed in 2017 F1. Ferrari is good everywhere. Mercedes is not good on low grip tracks that are made up mainly of slow corners, as well as on softer tyre compounds. See Russia and Monaco. And in Montreal it'll face pretty much exactly the same again.

Therefore the smart money could be on Sebastian Vettel, and he's not even odds on for the Canadian pole and win. He can be backed at 21/10 for the former and 8/5 for the latter, and both appear great value.

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Indy vs. F1, Settle This The Boxing Way

There's Lewis Hamilton on one side and ALL the Indy drivers on the other. They're at a war of words, thanks to Hamilton questioning the level of talent competing in the American open-wheel single-seater series. How do we settle this? Let's have the world's best racers challenge each other, boxing style. A fully blown PR event, racer vs. racer - in a single-make car, anyone like this idea?

In this week's episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast, Mithila and Kunal talk about the upcoming Canadian Grand Prix, a possible reunion between Alonso-Renault, Red Bull Racing's silly caravan racing video and if like the Indy Car Championship, should Formula 1 publicise driver earnings for each race too? There's just so much both the series can learn from each other.

Finally, which driver will crash into the Wall of Champions? And with a 25 points deficit, Canada is definitely going to see some 'HAMmer Time'!

Subscribe to the Inside Line F1 Podcast on iTunes and audioBoom for your weekly dose of Formula 1 humour.

Tune in!

(Season 2017, Episode 21)

Monday, 5 June 2017

Montreal Preview - In the spirit of Gilles

You've probably noticed by now that the folks in and around F1 don't always agree on everything. Or on much at all.

The Montreal weekend has an inimitable quality
Photo: Octane Photography
And that applies absolutely to its venues. Yet there are a few on which there is nevertheless close to unanimity. One is that the annual visit to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal for the Canadian Grand Prix, the latest of which is this weekend, is one to relish.

There are many reasons for this. Gripping drama and madcap action are positive expectations at this race. The layout ensures plenty of overtaking opportunities. The nearby walls at the parkland track can and frequently have punished even small errors. It even has its own 'Wall of Champions' which as its name suggests has ensnared a few of the best.

It is a place that rewards the brave. The track with the nearby walls cited is made up essentially of straights separately by chicanes and a hairpin. Pivoting and hustling the car through the chicanes, being bold on the brakes and shaving the forbidding concrete at great speed are what's needed.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Does Kimi Räikkönen have what it takes to make up points on the leaders? By Steven Critchley

Ten years ago a champion, today a relative also-ran. Kimi Räikkönen is perhaps one of the most underrated racers in the roster today. And with Finland's record for producing F1 talent, it may pain him particularly to see a less-experienced countryman – in Valtteri Bottas – occupying a coveted Mercedes car. Naturally, where Räikkönen's title win of 2007 is concerned, cynics would be quick to point out that it was won by just a single point, and afforded him in some part by a period of indifferent form for both McLaren drivers. Today, a long win-less run, spanning back to the 2013 season opener in Australia, as reported on BBC Sport, stands out as particularly galling for Räikkönen. Yet, until his retirement at the Spanish Grand Prix, Räikkönen's early 2017 form on was strong and consistent.

‘Kimi Räikkönen’ by Mark McArdle
via Flickr (CC-BY-SA-2.0)
Whether Sebastian Vettel's continued dominance over his team mate is part of some intricate Ferrari strategy remains to be seen, but as of 24 May 2017, where he is an 80/1 outsider (Source: Betway Sports), Räikkönen's ability to mix it with the elite remains firmly in question. Naturally, in light of the downturn in form he suffered at the end of 2016, with two retirements in the final four races, most experts would have dismissed Räikkönen's title hopes long before even the pre-season tests of 2017 began. These same 'experts' could forever analyse Räikkönen's situation, but the sole fact remains obvious – Räikkönen must begin winning races, and quickly.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Fernando Alonso, Motorsport's Disruptive Force

Fernando Alonso, arguably Formula 1's unluckiest double World Champion, is he Motorsport's most disruptive force right now? His exploits at the 101st Indianapolis 500 almost stole the limelight away from Formula 1, Monaco, Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel. Can the current and next generation of racers take inspiration from his move? Has Alonso's target of the 'Triple Crown of Motorsport' suddenly brought it back into the spotlight? Will there be more drivers gunning for this crown?

In this week's episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast, Mithila and Kunal discuss how easily and with open arms did the Indy 500 welcome Fernando Alonso. Would Formula 1 ever be able to replicate this gesture to any of the Indy 500 drivers?

At Motorsport's BIGGEST weekend ever, was there conspiracy at both the iconic races? A Japanese driver won in the Honda car in a team sponsored by a Japanese company whereas in Monaco, we all know how the Ferrari-Raikkonen-Vettel over cut strategy turned out. Congrats to Haas for their double points finish, btw.

Finally, we'd love for Lewis Hamilton to participate in the Indy 500 than doubt the existing talent there. Tune in!

Subscribe to the Inside Line F1 Podcast on iTunes and audioBoom for your weekly dose of Formula 1 humour.

(Season 2017, Episode 20)

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Monaco Grand Prix review for Motor Verso - Much ado about nothing

On Ferrari 'tactics' it was much ado about nothing; on Ferrari pace it was something that there should be much ado about.

Photo: Octane Photography
As is often the case this Monaco race was far from a thriller, but it provided plenty for us to chew on.

And perhaps in our determination to find Maranello skulduggery we're missing by far the most important take-out. That Ferrari dominated, particularly in Sebastian Vettel's hands. And the Mercedes, at least for Lewis Hamilton, experienced a conspicuous trough for the second time in three rounds.

You can read my Monaco GP review for Motor Verso here: http://www.motorverso.com/monaco-gp-2017-report-much-ado-nothing/

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.

Firstpost Video - Monaco Grand Prix Review

Here's the latest Firstpost Video Grand Prix Review.

Mithila and Kunal from the Inside Line F1 Podcast discuss the Monaco Grand Prix, the notorious question of Ferrari's pit 'tactics', and other matters from the weekend. You can watch below:


Sunday, 28 May 2017

Monaco GP Report - Making it work

In F1 even fairy tales tend to be stalked by a wicked witch. There scarcely was a dry eye in the house as Kimi Raikkonen bagged his first pole position in nine years yesterday, and here in Monaco, the most important pole of the year. Yet there was an inevitable accompaniment.

Sebastian Vettel triumphed in the Monaco Grand Prix,
and extends his title lead
Photo: Octane Photography
'Will Ferrari issue a team order in the race?' Or rather 'when will Ferrari issue a team order in the race?' After all from the championship side for the Scuderia it's all about Sebastian Vettel, who lined up alongside the Finn on the grid. The consensus remains that Mercedes will improve. And titles have been lost by far less than the seven-point difference.

As it was the red team did something between issuing an order and not. It gave Seb an opportunity. And he seized it magnificently.

Kimi led Seb off the line, and for the opening stint it was nip and tuck between the two imperious red machines. Kimi quickly established a lead of two seconds or so, but Seb then periodically took bites out of it. Later, particularly as they hit traffic, he got it to under a second.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Monaco Qualifying - The boy is back in town

"This is Monaco, mate," said Esteban Ocon's engineer to his young charge in morning practice, explaining away one of the place's many peculiarities. And at the same time all the other ones.

Kimi Raikkonen stunned by taking his
first pole position in nearly nine years
Photo: Octane Photography
For more reasons than mere prestige Monaco's is the most important qualifying session of the year. It also is the most challenging. And unpredictable. It's not just due to the casino that the Principality is associated with games of chance.

And the pole man we got this time is none other than Kimi Raikkonen. As you'll now be familiar it's his first pole since the French Grand Prix of 2008. Or 129 Grands Prix ago if you prefer. You'll also be familiar that in the common consciousness he's for a while been the other Ferrari pilot.

Following the practice sessions things appeared to be crystallising. It looked Ferrari's and particularly Sebastian Vettel's to lose, the German chucking out times clear tenths quicker than the rest, seemingly at will. Mercedes was neither as quick as the red car nor as good on the rubber.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Why Raikkonen Will Never Race The Indy 500

As Motorsport's most-awaited weekend nears, Mithila and Kunal had to make a tough choice while deciding what to speak about first - the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix or the Indianapolis 500? We can't possibly wonder how Fernando Alonso made up his mind! And damn the Indy 500 traditions for not being Raikkonen-friendly.

In this week's episode, we discuss the long and short of wheelbases, Jenson Button's return to Formula 1, Carlos Sainz Jr.'s most-certain departure from Toro Rosso for 2018 (and how he should NEVER take career advice from a certain Fernando), Pastor Maldonado's misconception, Hamilton's love for Indian food and how we hope and pray for a combined racing weekend of MotoGP and Formula 1 action at the same venue. Now, wouldn't that be most epic?

Subscribe to the Inside Line F1 Podcast on iTunes and audioBoom for your weekly dose of Formula 1 humour. 

Tune in!

(Season 2017, Episode 19)

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Monaco GP Betting Preview - Lewis's to lose?

This column, by accident or design (more likely the former), seems to be on to something. The last betting preview, for the Spanish Grand Prix just passed, played quite the blinder, featuring the odds for the correct race winner and pole sitter, as well as highlighting punts on the pole winning margin and for Daniel Ricciardo to finish on the podium that also came in.

Is Lewis Hamilton the man to lay your money on?
Photo: Octane Photography
Now we have Monaco - a place associated with games of chance. Perhaps appropriate to its F1 race given that event's madcap reputation. Yet as explained in my event preview Monaco's status as being a place where the unusual happens can be overstated, and may be this time.

Some think Ferrari's shorter wheelbase than the Mercedes's will serve it well at the sinewy track, but using the common guide of speed in Barcelona's final sector last time out Mercedes in fact looks on top and Lewis Hamilton especially so. Lewis can be got at 13/10 to win and 7/5 to get pole. Both look good value.

Plus if you like to use what's happened in the past as a guide (and I've heard it said that gamblers who know what they're doing do), the Scuderia hasn't won in Monaco for 16 years...

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

New Motorsport Week article: Formula 1 learning that small things make a big difference

Photo: Octane Photography
It's true what they say, that small things can make a big difference. Not least in that they can create a virtuous momentum of their own.

F1 is demonstrating this in 2017, and not just because of the small, but big, things it's started to do to promote itself better. The on track action is much more captivating too, as in a small, but big, change the two protagonists at the front are not from inside the same team.

And the difference on show in the Barcelona race just passed, compared with what we got used to in the intra-Mercedes fights of previous years, could not have been more stark. Not least in the strategic punch and counter punch.

You can read my take on it all via this link: https://www.motorsportweek.com/news/id/14730

Monday, 22 May 2017

Monaco Preview: As big a change as we think?

Once upon a time, Formula One fan and more general wit Clive James noted with typical dryness that "it is said these days with increasing frequency that Monaco makes a nice change from Grand Prix racing". And with the latest visit upon us, it's hard to argue.

Despite everything, there's something about Monaco
Photo: Octane Photography
Really, what is it with the place and its 'jewel in the crown' status? There are so many reasons to dislike Grands Prix around the Principality. If you're to be critical, the Monaco round is an anachronism. If you're to be very critical, it's an absurdity.

Narrow and bumpy, as well as a tortuously sinewy tunnel of barriers. Famously Nelson Piquet described its challenge as like trying to ride a bicycle around your living room. No-one can pass here, and that's been the way for decades. Qualifying does a lot to frame the race result.

It doesn't get much better off the track either; cramped and claustrophobic as well as with various ostentatious poseurs on yachts who in all probability don't care much for the sport other than in that weekend.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Will this season define Hamilton's Formula One legacy? by Steven Critchley

Lewis Hamilton earned a vital win in his battle with Sebastian Vettel at the top of the Drivers' Championship by triumphing in the Spanish Grand Prix.

Photo: Octane Photography
The 32-year-old Brit suffered disappointment in the Russian Grand Prix as his vehicle had set-up and cooling issues, leaving him off the pace in a fourth-place finish.

However, his ability to bounce back in Barcelona has hauled him back on pace to match the German's early progress at the start of the campaign, with a fascinating battle set to take place over the course of the season.

Hamilton is aiming to secure his fourth Formula One crown and his third in the past four years. Vettel has been out of contention for the past three years, but is striving for his fifth world title – which would leave only the great Michael Schumacher ahead in the all-time record books.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Inside Line F1 Podcast - FIA Should Have Penalised Verstappen & Raikkonen

The 2017 Spanish Grand Prix was epic. Lewis Hamilton won a race he had almost lost. As for Sebastian Vettel, he managed a perfect start, a super overtake of Bottas, a valiant defence from Hamilton only to finish 2nd. Why did Ferrari choose to not pit Vettel in the last 12-15 laps and set him a target to chase Hamilton? This question will remain unanswered.

3-into-1 has always entertained in Formula 1, but in the Verstappen-Raikkonen-Bottas sandwich, should the FIA have penalised Verstappen & Raikkonen for unsafe rejoining of the track? We believe that the FIA need to rethink the Virtual Safety Car deployment - can we limit it to the particular sector and not the entire track? And of course, the FIA needs to sit with the teams (Force India, in particular) and standardise driver sticker spots.

Lastly, why is Bernie Ecclestone keen to demote himself to being a team owner? That too of a mid-field team? Is this is a hint of the sign of times to come? We speculate.

Subscribe to the Inside Line F1 Podcast on iTunes and audioBoom for your weekly dose of Formula 1 humour.

Tune in!

(Season 2017, Episode 18)

Spanish Grand Prix review for Motor Verso - Just the two of us

Photo: Octane Photography
F1 returned to fundamentals in Spain. Not only the fundamentals of giving us a great race, but also the fundamentals of this season - Seb vs. Lewis, and Ferrari vs. Mercedes. A race that was all about those pairs, and a World Drivers' Championship that's tearing that way too.

And what a race all those fundamentals gave us...

My review of a thrilling Spanish GP for Motor Verso can be read here: http://www.motorverso.com/spanish-gp-2017-report-just-two-us/

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, 14 May 2017

Spanish GP Report - A game for two players

"This is what the sport needs to be every single race and this is why I race, what got me into racing."

Lewis Hamilton won out after a race long
battle with Sebastian Vettel
Photo: Octane Photography
So noted the victor Lewis Hamilton afterwards. It was hard to argue.

Hard pushing of F1 cars by two world-class drivers contesting the win - one of whom sounded breathless on the radio throughout such were his exertions. Two fine on track overtakes for the lead. An intriguing, varied strategic battle too, that only was resolved late. The Barcelona circuit - associated usually with all things dull - must be losing its edge. Or perhaps F1 is gaining one.

F1 returned to fundamentals for the Spanish Grand Prix today, not least with its fundamental for 2017 tete-a-tete at the front between Sebastian Vettel and the afore mentioned Hamilton. For most of the way the rest were distant things that made noise. And for much of the way the race looked Seb's to lose. Once again he got the better start and scampered off in a way straight from his Red Bull pomp - 2.2 seconds clear after one lap.

Lewis indeed in the opening stint admitted on his radio that it was "not easy to keep up", though he at least managed to hold the gap at something like 2.5 for a while, and then started to chip at it not long before the first stops.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Barcelona Qualifying - Acting in unison

Just how often does this happen? We come to Barcelona for the Spanish Grand Prix with the air rich of talk of technical transformation; 'B spec' cars even in some cases. And in the end? We end up pretty much where we were. Everyone improves but improves almost in unison.

In a familiar theme, Lewis Hamilton had the
 qualifying edge and took pole
Photo: Octane Photography
It happened again this time. In yesterday's practice at the Montmelo track it looked like normality was going to be restored. The normality as established in recent years that is, of Mercedes dominating.

The sleek new silver machine looked well clear of all others - 'new' being the operative word. "Bloody hell. It's all new. All of it. That's incredible," noted one reserve driver to Will Buxton of the revised W08 on show, far from alone in the view.

But come practice running this morning it was fairly clear that Ferrari wasn't going anywhere after all. And in the acid test of qualifying it was another normality, the one that we've got used to in 2017, that prevailed. Mercedes and Ferrari with almost nothing between them, and Lewis Hamilton having the edge on a Saturday at least. He took his third pole position from five this season. Sochi it appears was indeed one of his outliers.

Friday, 12 May 2017

New Motorsport Week article: Chris Amon - Fernando Alonso's echo from the past

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 https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/
index.php?curid=886071
It is tempting to assume that many of F1's odd and infuriating ways are peculiar to this warped modern age. That the sort of thing would never have gone on in its glorious past.

But it's not always the case. Indeed you could argue that it's not often the case. With astonishing regularity there is in fact a precedent.

And so it is with the curious ongoing case of Fernando Alonso, brought into sharp focus by his struggles with the McLaren Honda. Has there ever been another with his sheer talent matched by his sheer inability to be in the right car at the right time? The answer is yes.

In my latest for Motorsport Week​ I tell the story of Chris Amon. You can read it here: https://www.motorsportweek.com/news/id/14587

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Red Bull Gives You Wings, But No Brakes

As we approach the 2017 Spanish Grand Prix, all eyes will be on Red Bull Racing. Will their upgrades make them a front running team for 2017? And Red Bull might give you wings, but they clearly aren't giving Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo good brakes.

IF ONLY Niki Lauda's statement that Spain is where the season 'resets' would mean a reset of the 80 points deficit for Red Bull Racing. The RB13 is unlucky for some, at this moment.

In this week's episode, Mithila and Kunal discuss how Formula 1 might be an art-craft class after the FIA introduced new regulations for driver identification. With 30 new venues showing interest in hosting a Formula 1 Grand Prix, can we and will we ever have 52 races in a year ever? And finally, there's enough proof that you can take Formula 1 away from Bernie Ecclestone, but not Bernie Ecclestone from Formula 1. Tune in!

Subscribe to the Inside Line F1 Podcast on iTunes and audioBoom for your weekly dose of Formula 1 humour.

(Season 2017, Episode 17)

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Spanish GP Betting Preview – The ‘predictable’ race that’s hard to predict

If this betting column is proving anything it's that you should listen to me, but only kind of listen to me. Last time out for the Russian race I said that things would swing back to Mercedes over Ferrari. Which came true, kind of. Eventually.

Will Mercedes be back in front of Ferrari in Spain?
Photo: Octane Photography
I also said that the eventual victor Valtteri Bottas has a good record at the Sochi track, though managed to only mention his odds for pole (which he didn't get) and for getting in the race top three (which I suppose technically he did).

But thankfully the Spanish Grand Prix this weekend coming is notorious for being predictable. Right? Well, again, kind of. Up to a point. And it's reflected by the odds on offer on betting sites.

As this is F1 2017-style which is characterised by a close, and unpredictable, face-off at the front between Ferrari and Mercedes. And reflecting a race that, as outlined in my event preview, is hard to call there's not much between the two usual suspects Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel for race victory in Spain. Lewis is available at 13/8 to win; Seb can be got at 9/5. Both appear reasonable value.

But the big value may be in backing Valtteri Bottas to triumph for the second race in a row – as odds for that to happen looks highly generous at 4/1. A case can be put together for another win for him: if as in Russia Valtteri can lead at turn one it'll be nine-tenths of the battle; Valtteri's a strong qualifier plus track characteristics should mean that Merc shouldn't repeat its Sochi qualifying struggles. Merc's quali talisman should return.

If you want to seek to make good on that assumption you can also get 7/2 on Bottas to get pole, and 5/4 for Lewis. Given the time-honoured difficulties of passing at the Barcelona circuit, this may further make the Mercs the way to go for race win betting too.

A related market that may be fruitful is that of the pole winning margin. At this track the car does the work – poor cars can't be hustled to a great extent – grids often are in two-by-two formation, and the gap between the front two – presumably in the same machine – could therefore be close. Go therefore for 19/20 on a pole winning margin of less than 0.150 seconds.

Of the rest of the pack, you might want a bit of a punt on a Red Bull driver finishing in the top three. It's an outside shot, given how far Ferrari and Mercedes are ahead these days. But attrition and/or Red Bull's much-anticipated upgrade working well could make it happen (as could the rain that is forecast for Sunday). Daniel Ricciardo is 4/1 to get onto the podium in Spain.

Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz meanwhile has a very good record at this track – last year he finished sixth while the year before qualified fifth. You can get him to finish in the top six again this time at 6/1.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Barcelona Preview: Intrigue rather than invigoration

'Is F1 too boring?' Time was that such shrieks were an annual event, after every Spanish Grand Prix at the Montmelo track near Barcelona it seemed. There may be more of it this time.

The Montmelo track near Barcelona has long been
associated with follow-my-leader
Photo: Octane Photography
For all of the feelgood about this year's F1, on-track racing - or lack of it - remains an elephant in the otherwise pristine room. We also have just gone through a race in Russia with zero overtakes. And now we have one at Montmelo, long associated with passing being theoretical only.

The numbers back this up. No fewer than three in every four Grands Prix here have been won by the pole-sitter while on only three occasions since the race debuted in 1991 has it been won from a start off the front row. All of that trio too had peculiar circumstances (not least last year when the two front row starters helpfully wiped each other out before turn four...).

The theory backs it up also. It's a circuit with plenty of medium-to-fast long-ish turns that the modern aero-laden F1 car can't follow another through very happily. That it's a default testing venue takes away another variable, as all have a firm sense of the optimum set-up.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Russian Grand Prix review for Motor Verso - Bottas turns silver into gold

Despite appearances (and a lack of overtaking, and stuff) F1 cannot be said to be predictable. And it wasn't in Sochi.

Photo: Octane Photography
In advance we thought it Merc's - and by extenion Lewis Hamilton's - to lose. Then for much of the weekend itself it looked like Ferrari would run and hide. Come the race though it was none other than Valtteri Bottas who faced all down to win for the first time ever in his F1 career.

Like The Alchemist, everything in Bottas's universe aligned in his favour. Like the alchemist, Bottas turned silver into, this time, gold.

I give my take on it all in my review of the Russian weekend for Motor Verso. You can have a read here: http://www.motorverso.com/russian-gp-2017-review-bottas-turns-silver-gold/

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, 30 April 2017

Russian GP Report - Valtteri's validation

Again, what the hell do we know? Practice and qualifying for this Russian Grand Prix in Sochi both told us that in F1 things aren't quite as simple as they may seem in advance. And sure enough neither were they in the race.

Valtteri Bottas had a fine - and unexpected - debut win
Photo: Octane Photography
It was Ferrari's to lose they said, refusing to learn from the above aphorism. Yet within just about a blink of the red light going out the race indeed looked very different. As in this game we have a thing called a standing start.

In among the predictions of a Ferrari walkover there was the odd murmur that the apparently struggling Mercedes is very quick in the long run to the first (proper) Sochi turn, and it might just be able to take advantage. The odd murmur it transpired was a portent. A combination of a fine launch, a slipstream and Merc grunt (plus Sebastian Vettel spoke ruefully later of a head wind not helping him) meant third-place starter Valtteri Bottas swept clean by poleman Vettel's red car before the first braking zone to lead.

And then Bottas - who'd never won a race before and moreover had hardly led one - indeed led like one born to do it. It was a reminder that Bottas's race pace from Friday looked good, it's just that few of us thought he'd be in a position to take advantage of it. Also some worried about Merc's ability to warm its tyres up early on, but an immediate safety car period (brought about by Romain Grosjean and Jolyon Palmer wiping each other out in a big way) seemed to head that off a treat. After one lap of green flag racing Bottas was 1.8 seconds clear. After 20 laps his advantage was 5.5. As outlined, the day had changed.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Sochi Qualifying - Not so simple

In F1 in 2017 things rarely are as simple as assumed in advance. So it has been this time in Sochi for the Russian Grand Prix. And was so more than once in a single Saturday afternoon.

Ferrari beat Mercedes once again - this time in quali
Photo: Octane Photography
It started in the build up. This one definitely would be Mercedes country we said (including your dear author). The Sochi track always has a feather touch on the tyres, and this would take away Ferrari's apparent trump card of being able to handle the Pirellis better over race stints. The red cars may also struggle to, in the parlance, 'switch the tyres on'.

Not so. Or at least not that simple. The Ferrari for this campaign is a very different beast to previous ones and two problems it's had traditionally - tyre warm up and fuel thirstiness, two things that would really be punished here in Russia - seem much more licked this season. Indeed in practice it was the Mercedes that struggled to get the Pirellis into their operating window quickly - struggling with the old Sochi bugbear of getting the front and rears into the zone at the same time (a consequence perhaps of the W08's long wheelbase). The Ferraris by contrast were able to get down to pace quickly, to use a Mario-ism looked painted to the road, and topped every practice session. Pole actually looked in advance like the red team's to lose.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Russian GP Betting - Migrate back to Mercedes?

May you live in interesting times. Such a phrase is usually said ironically; reckoned as it is to be a Chinese curse. But for the gambler interesting times can be a blessing.

By Липунов Г.А. - Own work, CC0, https://commons.
wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48625978
Of course there are many opportunities for online betting these days – there are a variety of sports you can take a punt on the outcome of, as well as online poker, real money casino sites and many other things. But you could make the case that right now it's the F1 fan who wants to put his money where their mouth is that has the most potential joy. F1 in 2017 is indeed living in interesting times – with a surprisingly competitive season featuring a surprisingly strong challenge from Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari. And perhaps it all has increased the opportunities to make hay.

And conversely for the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi taking place this weekend this all may have added to the value of backing Mercedes to bounce back; you can back Lewis Hamilton to bag the Sochi win at a relatively long even money.

There's a rationale behind it too. Unlike Bahrain last time out when Seb and Ferrari won for the second time this campaign, Sochi may be Merc territory. Tyre wear and degradation is traditionally low here, as are the ambient temperatures, which not only may take away some of Ferrari's tyre longevity trump card it may also give the red cars a problem getting their Pirellis 'into the zone'. And Merc might have won in Bahrain anyway without treading variously on its own tail.

Mercedes getting on pole is a safer bet; it's got all of them this year so far and with some comfort. Lewis can be backed at 11/17 for pole position in Russia.

The bigger question may be which Mercedes takes it and indeed the 'other' Merc of Valtteri Bottas got pole in Bahrain (albeit aided by a sub-standard Lewis lap). Bottas has a good record at this track – in each visit he's qualified third (in a Williams...) and might have got pole in 2014 without an error. With all of this, his odds to repeat his Bahrain feat by bagging pole in Russia at 7/2 look generous.

And if you fancy a safer punt on Valtteri, you can get 1/2 on him to finish in the top three this time. Given the above considerations, the general lay of 2017 competitiveness, as well as the way Kimi Raikkonen has been going lately, that's a minimum expectation for Valtteri with a trouble free run.

The Red Bulls have struggled to get the soft tyres to work this season as they don't have the downforce required to warm them up. But in Sochi it can avoid the soft and run the ultrasoft and supersoft if it prefers. In Bahrain the Bulls ran with the leaders until having to bolt the softs on – and you can back Daniel Ricciardo at 9/2 or Max Verstappen at 7/2 to finish on the podium in Russia.

Williams as intimated has a good record here – reflecting that 70% of the lap is at full throttle at the Grove car is strong in a straight line – and you can get 4/7 on Felipe Massa to finish in the top six. If you fancy a cheekier punt, then the other Williams of Lance Stroll can be backed to do the same at a whole 9/1.

New Motorsport Week article: Unpopular circuits consigned to Formula 1's history

Photo: Octane Photography
With the not-entirely popular Sochi visit for the latest Russian Grand Prix upon us this weekend, in my latest article for Motorsport Week I decide to do my good deed for the day/week/lifetime.

I assure the track that it's far from alone, and that a circuit having pariah status on the F1 itinerary is far from a new thing. Indeed I give a by no means exhaustive nor definitive rundown of some of the more unpopular circuits from F1 history.

Some cracking stories in there, if I'm allowed to comment on such things.

You can have a read via this link: https://www.motorsportweek.com/news/id/14442

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Inside Line F1 Podcast - McLaren Saved Formula 1 From A Honda Destruction

Thank you McLaren for vetoing a Red Bull Racing - Honda partnership a few seasons ago. IF not, we'd have had 6 GP2 cars (or worse!) racing in Formula 1. By the way, there's talk of Mercedes helping Honda with their power-unit. This is after Bernie Ecclestone suggested that Mercedes helped Ferrari. If that's the case, why not help Renault too? Or better, let's just give everyone Mercedes engines.

In this week's episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast, Mithila and Kunal discuss Fernando Alonso's Indy 500 preparations, Ecclestone-Vettel's friendship, Lauda's support of every Hamilton challenger, Renault's 2030 F1 concept and IF Fernando Alonso will retire his McLaren-Honda in the upcoming Russian Grand Prix too.

Tune in!

(Season 2017, Episode 16)

Subscribe to the Inside Line F1 Podcast on iTunes and audioBoom for your weekly dose of Formula 1 humour.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Sochi Preview: F1's ugly duckling

There's always one, isn't there? That F1 venue people find particularly hard to love. No new thing either. Nivelles, Detroit and others have had periodic pariah status historically. More recently it was Valencia. Then it was the Mokpo venue in Korea. Now, dear reader, I give you Sochi in Russia.

The Sochi venue in Russia has been hard for F1 to love
By Липунов Г.А. - Own work, CC0, https://commons.
wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48625966
It has ugly duckling status for a number of reasons. The race was in many eyes tainted at source, even though Bernie Ecclestone's attempts to get a Russian/USSR round onto the calendar stretched back literally decades. A Grand Prix in the Soviet Union to be held on the streets of Moscow appeared on the provisional F1 calendar as long ago as 1983 indeed and several mooted options came and went in the years that followed.

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

Friday, 21 April 2017

Bahrain Grand Prix review for Motor Verso - Two out of three ain't bad

By Dave Jefferys - https://www.flickr.com/photos/jaffapix/
26252296810/in/album-72157664943710804/, CC BY-SA
2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/
w/index.php?curid=48424119
It was just like the season. It was captivating. It took us around the houses. But in the end it came back to the chief theme of Sebastian Vettel vs. Lewis Hamilton.

After qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix it looked like it might be different. But come the race the already-established tete-a-tete was soon back on. And that was only the beginning of the parallels with previous rounds of the fledgling 2017 campaign.

While after vanquishing Lewis and Merc once again, for Seb and Ferrari as the old song goes two out of three ain't bad.

I give my take on it all in my review of the Sakhir action for Motor Verso. You can have a read here: http://www.motorverso.com/bahrain-gp-2017-review-two-three-aint-bad/

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.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Discontinued Cars, by Select Car Leasing

Have you ever heard the phrase "they don't make them like they used to"? Well Select Car Leasing decided to run with that idea and create a piece surrounding some of the most unforgettable discontinued cars the automotive industry has ever seen.

In the infographic below they show you some of the best and worst cars to be discontinued, some that really did deserved to die and some that we miss awfully.

They also give you an insight into whether any of these iconic cars will ever return. You can take a look below.

Discontinued Cars
Discontinued Cars by SELECT CAR LEASING.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Hamilton Finally Picks A Penalty For Driving Slowly

Lewis Hamilton has used 'driving slow' as a tactic in the past. Yes, it was at the 2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, where he won the race, but lost the Drivers' Championship to Nico Rosberg. However, at the epic 2017 Bahrain Grand Prix, Hamilton was penalised for driving slow ahead of Daniel Ricciardo. The karma of the Motorsport world coming to bite Hamilton back?

Mercedes were outclassed by Ferrari in every department, tyre strategy being the most evident one. In fact, Mercedes had lost out to Red Bull Racing too. The reigning World Champion need to sharpen themselves to fight external competition after years of intra-team battles. As for Ferrari, someone needs to remind them that they've a second car too!

After the first three races, it is appearing that positions 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 10th are already blocked for a few drivers. This means there's fewer positions to fight for in the top 10. But for McLaren-Honda, after being bored of DNFs, they decided to lodge a DNS!

Finally, we welcome Turkey and their Turn 8 back to Formula 1, let's hope they get onto the calendar soon enough. We would also like to welcome back Jenson Button for his one-off appearance for McLaren at the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix. He's either bold or dumb to race in Monaco without any testing whatsoever. And of course, our best wishes and prayers to Billy Monger and his family. Tune in!

(Season 2017, Episode 15)

Subscribe to the Inside Line F1 Podcast on iTunes and audioBoom for your weekly dose of Formula 1 humour.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Firstpost Video - Bahrain Grand Prix Review

Here's the latest Firstpost Video Grand Prix Review. This time Mithila and Kunal from the Inside Line F1 Podcast review last weekend's excellent Bahrain race won by Sebastian Vettel. You can watch below:

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Bahrain GP Report - Returning to the theme

Come back to what you know, as the song went. F1 returned to already familiar themes in the Bahrain Grand Prix today. Valtteri Bottas's interloper performance to get pole position proved just that - again things distilled to the Sebastian Vettel versus Lewis Hamilton game for two players. And it was another thrilling one.

For the second time in three rounds, Sebastaian Vettel
and Ferrari got it right to win
Photo: Octane Photography
It was one of strategy, on the watch, not wheel-to-wheel. But no less gripping for that. And for the second time in three it was Ferrari and Seb that got it right to triumph. The Scuderia's calls were both aggressive and spot on - something that seemed a world away last season. Seb meanwhile was fast and immaculate in converting it all to a win under pressure. That bit is altogether less new.

There were echoes of previous rounds of the fledgling 2017 season everywhere in the Sakhir race. Just like round one in Australia, Vettel having been outpaced in qualifying looked the quickest thing in the race. Just as in Australia too - after vaulting Lewis at the first turn (something Seb aptly called "crucial"), later on the brakes - he apparently was happy to sit on the leading Mercedes's gearbox, this time that of Bottas, in the opening stint.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

New Motorsport Week article: Why F1’s current driver line-up could be the best ever

Photo: Octane Photography
This new F1 clearly is very new. Not least that - in something that for most of recent times was about as likely as a Dodo flying past the paddock lavatories - there is a feel-good factor around. Particularly following the superb China race.

In my latest for Motorsport Week I join in on it all, by pointing out something that already was very good about the sport - its high quality line-up of drivers. It might even be the best the sport has ever had...

You can read my take on it all via this link: https://www.motorsportweek.com/news/id/14324

Sakhir Qualifying - Valtteri comes to the party

The story could have been achingly familiar. One in which thoughts of a challenge to the Mercedes were dashed. Just like happened at this track last year. And the year before. The Sakhir circuit is a place where Merc likes to snatch hope from its rivals - and of a few others - that it's about to be usurped.

In Bahrain qualifying Valtteri Bottas came to the party
Photo: Octane Photography
It did just that in qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix, but the story even so was not familiar. As for the first time since his promotion to the Brackley squad Valtteri Bottas stepped up. And stepped up all the way to pole position. His first ever.

Our tantalising Mercedes vs. Ferrari scrap, new for 2017, has from many viewpoints been distilled to Lewis Hamilton vs. Sebastian Vettel. On the basis of the opening two rounds one had good reason to think that way. But, despite some appearances, F1 can never be said to be altogether predictable. And in today's qualifying session the embattled Finn, still new in the Merc squad, in the nick of time reminded us that we can't be necessarily quite so reductive.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

New F1 Hub article: Is this the return of ‘real’ F1 racing?

Photo: Octane Photography
Just as Harold Wilson said of politics, a week is a long time in F1. Or rather an hour and a half on a Sunday is.

Following however many years of impenetrable murk and despair, then a distinctly mixed bag in the first race of the new formula in Australia, with the second race of it, in China last weekend, suddenly it seems we all agree that all is right with the sport.

In my debut feature article for F1 Hub I look back at an excellent Chinese Grand Prix and wonder if, and why, F1 might at last have got it right when it comes to the racing.

You can have a read of my take here: http://www.f1hub.net/index.php/commentary/analysis-is-this-the-return-of-real-racing/12855/

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Bahrain GP Betting Preview - Flutter on Ferrari

F1 in 2017 has been a lot about Ferrari. It's of course had a strong start to the campaign - surprisingly so - and in China demonstrated it is the real deal in a real championship fight, by at least matching Mercedes on race pace at a track that in theory suited the silver team.

There are reasons to think Ferrari will be leading
Mercedes again in Bahrain
Photo: Octane Photography
Yet for the bookies old habits die hard it seems. They still have Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes as favourites to win out this weekend in Bahrain. But even over and above Ferrari's general form, as outlined in my race preview plenty about this one in Sakhir - hot temperatures, a premium on rear grip among many other things - could well mean it's Ferrari country. And you can get Sebastian Vettel to triumph in the race at a full 19/10. Tempting.

Despite all of this Mercedes, and especially Lewis Hamilton, has still had a qualifying talisman this year. Lewis to get his third pole from three in 2017 this weekend can be backed at evens.

And if you want to really follow through on your Lewis to start on pole/Seb to win the race theory, you can also get 5/2 on the Bahrain race winner starting second, and (if you have faith in Valtteri Bottas) 9/2 on the winner starting third.

Elsewhere, Kimi Raikkonen to get onto the podium in Bahrain looks good value at 6/5. Partly as the above considerations about Ferrari apply to him too, but also that Kimi has a good record at this track, and indeed has finished second in four of the last five Bahrain Grands Prix.

In terms of longer shot stuff, Felipe Massa to finish the race in the top three can be got at a stonking 70/1. This coming in would likely require some attrition ahead, but the Williams has looked strong on raw pace at least in 2017 (perhaps in Red Bull territory), the Sakhir track should suit the car plus Felipe is another who tends to go well here. The odds, given these, look generous.

Romain Grosjean at 6/1 to finish in the top six in Bahrain also looks a reasonable punt. He finished fifth here least year and the Haas has looked decent this season. Esteban Ocon is to do the same at 16/1 looks even more reasonable. Force India has a good Bahrain record, such as Sergio Perez finishing third in 2014.

All odds quoted in this article were accurate on the Oddschecker website at 2100 GMT on Wednesday 12 April 2017.

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Have Ferrari Forgotten Team Orders?

After the incredible Chinese Grand Prix, we wondered what most Ferrari fans would've wondered - why did Ferrari not ask Kimi Raikkonen to move over and let Sebastian Vettel pass? Could this strategic move have altered the race result? Did this 'no team order' strategy blunder cost Ferrari more than their tyre strategy for Vettel?

Frankly, we're happy that Ferrari let their drivers race. Yes, it's unusual, but it is something that Mercedes and Red Bull Racing have been doing since ages. Thank you, Ferrari. And since we're thanking people, thank you Max Verstappen for a fantastic charge up the grid.

The Chinese Grand Prix also confirmed two things: First, we're about to witness a closely contested season after many many many years! It'll be a Ferrari vs. Mercedes to start with and we're praying Red Bull Racing join the action too. Second, it'll be Vettel vs. Hamilton battle for the Drivers' Championship and Bottas vs. Raikkonen for the Constructors' Championship.

In this week's episode, our hosts look forward to the first double header racing weekend of the season. Yes, we'll be racing in Bahrain in a few days. Should Bernie Ecclestone buy Interlagos just to have some fun with the new boys running Formula 1? Could Fernando Alonso deflect to Williams in 2018? Bye-Bye Sepang and hello Nurburgring or Hockenheim? Okay, can we have both? Tune in!

Subscribe to the Inside Line F1 Podcast on iTunes and audioBoom for your weekly dose of Formula 1 humour.

(Season 2017, Episode 14)