Wednesday 28 June 2017

Inside Line F1 Podcast - A Lose Head & A Loose Headrest

The 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix did test the usage of the words 'lose' and 'loose'! In this week's episode, we wonder if Pirelli will soon run out adjectives for their 'soft' tyres and if they'll debut a mega ultra super soft tyre someday soon. And mind you, a single set of this compound might last the entire race duration too!

We look back at Daniel Ricciardo's 'curse of the No. 3' that actually worked, the much-debated Hamilton-Vettel clash, Valtteri Bottas' recovery drive to P2 and has Lance Stroll proved his critics (including us!) wrong already?

A triple header Formula 1 weekend in 2018 will be a treat for the fans, but if you're a die-hard fan, you can forget about planning a holiday in June/July 2018!

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

New Motorsport Week article: Fernando Alonso to Mercedes or Ferrari for 2018 – is it that unlikely?

Even if he does nothing on track (which in itself is pretty rare) we know that Fernando Alonso is always good for entertainment. Intrigue, it seems, follows him.

Photo: Octane Photography
And in the Azerbaijan weekend just passed he and his people were on manoeuvres, all to do with where he'll drive next season. Some of Alonso's comments were fascinating, including that he expects to be in a 'safe' winning F1 car next year - which surely means Mercedes, Ferrari or at a stretch Red Bull - and that there will be more driver market movement that we currently are assuming.

In my latest for Motorsport Week I try to unpick it all and look into just how likely a Mercedes or Ferrari move for 2018 is for Nando. Maybe they're more likely that we'd first think...

You can have a read here:

Tuesday 27 June 2017

Firstpost Video - Azerbaijan Grand Prix Review

The latest Firstpost Video Grand Prix Review is here. Mithila and Kunal of Inside Line F1 Podcast this time review the extraordinary Azerbaijan Grand Prix. It includes discussion of Lewis-Seb gate, Ricciardo's drive through the pack, and - befitting of the race we got - plenty else besides...

You can watch below:

Azerbaijan Grand Prix review for Motor Verso - The wild ones

It was one of those where it's hard to know where to begin. The Baku race started as very ordinary for 2017 - Lewis Hamilton leading from Sebastian Vettel. But then they had a contretemps. Then they both had delays - in Vettel's case related to the contretemps.

Photo: Octane Photography
Others had their bad luck too. There was plenty of disruption. And through it all came none other than Daniel Ricciardo to win. And in case you think that sounds halfway normal then consider that he had dropped to 19th place after an early unscheduled pitstop. It was that sort of race.

In my latest Motor Verso race review I do my best to squeeze in the important bits:

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 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 -
@N07/27719040512/in/dateposted/, CC BY-SA 2.0,
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:

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:

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.