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:

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:

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:

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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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:

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:

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.