Sunday, 23 July 2017

New Motorsport Week article: Forget the halfway house halo - F1 needs closed cockpits

My latest for Motorsport Week, inevitably, is about the halo.

Photo: Octane Photography
It's lingered for a while; been resisted at least once. But the FIA confirmed in the week that it's happening. Next year's F1 cars will feature them.

Few seem happy with this, and while I can understand to some extent how we've got here, there remains on this plenty we can question the FIA about.

Not least why after years of cockpit protection investigation the halo is the only show in town? And more broadly, why don't we go the whole hog and enclose the cockpit, rather than wrestle with halfway house solutions?

You can have a read of my take on it all here: https://www.motorsportweek.com/news/id/15392

Friday, 21 July 2017

Ayrton Senna Coin Collection by Rosland Capital

You may recall last season me telling you about premier precious metals asset firm Rosland Capital releasing and distributing The Formula One Collection, a limited edition series of F1 themed coin collections.

The Ayrton Senna 30oz gold coin
Building on these, Rosland Capital this year has a latest project, which celebrates the late great Ayrton Senna.

The limited edition Ayrton Senna coin collection, designed in collaboration with the Ayrton Senna Institute and with Formula One Management, features a 30 oz gold coin, a 2.5 oz gold coin, and a 2.5 oz silver coin, all featuring the legendary racer.

Minted by Swiss-based PAMP S.A., a portion of the proceeds will directly benefit the Ayrton Senna Institute. These limited edition coins are made available by precious metals dealer Rosland Capital.

For more Formula One coin news, follow along with Rosland Capital online on YouTube.

There are a few more images of the collection below. You can also find more information about the collection on Rosland Capital's website via this link: https://www.roslandcapital.com/f1/ayrton-senna-collection.
The gold and silver 2.5oz Senna coins
The 2.5oz silver coin
The 30oz gold coin in acrylic

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Ferrari and Mercedes Control Alonso's Fate In F1?

Ferrari & Mercedes don't seem interested in hiring Fernando Alonso's services for 2018. But by not willing to offer McLaren their power units for 2018, they're not helping McLaren (and hence, Formula 1) retain Alonso either. Are Ferrari and Mercedes controlling Fernando Alonso's fate in Formula 1? In fact, we think they are certainly controlling the 'competitive quotient' of Formula 1 too.

From power struggles, Formula 1 is now witnessing power unit struggles! In this week's episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast, Mithila and Kunal discuss Formula 1's partnership with Snapchat, the business of the F1 Live Events (we can't wait for the next one!), Formula 1 drivers releasing their personalised emoji packs (we can't wait for Raikkonen's) and how another 'Sebastian' might join the grid in 2018.

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

Tuesday, 18 July 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.

Firstpost Video - British Grand Prix Review

The latest Firstpost Video Grand Prix Review is here. Mithila and Kunal of Inside Line F1 Podcast this time look at the British Grand Prix, including Lewis Hamilton's crushing win, the fun that took place far behind him, and the latest state of an intriguing championship fight. And Snapchat...

You can watch below:

British Grand Prix review for Motor Verso - Lewis's perfect day

For Lewis Hamilton the British Grand Prix was, as Lou Reed might have it, such a perfect day.

Photo: Octane Photography
Not only for himself, as usual crushing in his home event, but with what befell his title rival Sebastian Vettel. Suddenly there is but a point in it for the title and equally suddenly, having had a maddening time in the preceding two rounds, all momentum now seems with Lewis.

And who knows? With him all alone missing London Live in order to concentrate on his preparations for this one, perhaps Lewis reaped just what he sowed? He says stretching the Perfect Day theme beyond its limits...

Here's my review of it all for Motor Verso: http://www.motorverso.com/british-gp-2017-report-lewiss-perfect-day/

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, 16 July 2017

British GP Report - Home run

Some fates seem set in advance. That, like Oedipus, no matter what you try to avert things you end still with the preordained outcome. Lewis Hamilton in the British Grand Prix benefited from just that, claiming his fourth home win in a row.

Lewis Hamilton cruised to victory
in a near-inevitable outcome
Photo: Octane Photography
Around Silverstone the Mercedes driver was as usual on another level. In advance we realised only the unusual could deny him, and nothing of that ilk materialised.

A poor start? It wasn't brilliant yet he held Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari off to lead. Rain? No - that stayed away (though as if to show how things smiled upon him, it arrived in a big way shortly after the chequered flag). You can guess the rest.

He simply moved clear. After the solitary stops he was more than 10 seconds away from the next guy. He won by 14. It was a Grand Chelem also - pole, fastest lap, win and led every lap. All appropriate. It was in more than one sense quite the home run.

And of course he was delighted. "That was amazing, oh my God, greatest day," Lewis beamed.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Silverstone Qualifying: Exercises in futility

Some things seem inevitable. Not only in having an insurmountable advantage, but also that over and above everything somehow will go for you. We got both this time, and it felt like something we'd seen plenty before. Lewis Hamilton took pole position for the British Grand Prix, as he always was going to.

Lewis Hamilton once again dominated in Britain
Photo: Octane Photography
The Silverstone circuit could be designed for the Mercedes, and it showed. But even of the Merc pair Lewis seems to have inherited Nigel Mansell's traits for his home round. Ensuring his adoring public is not disappointed by being on another level of all others. That for the rest it will be an exercise in futility for first place.

And Lewis got some luck he hardly needed, with not only the similarly-equipped Valtteri Bottas but also an expected close (a relative term) challenger Daniel Ricciardo getting five-place grid drops in advance for changing their gearbox, thus making the pole fight for them properly futile.

It looked in advance too that the British summer weather might be Lewis's only impediment, as rain was supposed to arrive for the end of quali. As it was it arrived for the start, as drizzled gathered minutes before the get-go. Yet it proved the most minor of irritants, particularly as it didn't hang around long.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

New Motorsport Week article: Why Lewis Hamilton is the perfect Ferrari driver

Photo: Octane Photography
Mighty oaks from little acorns grow. It started with Ben Anderson in Autosport interviewing Lewis Hamilton. And noticing that he said a few nice things about the Scuderia, as well as wasn't ruling out a Ferrari move one day.

It's a prospect that long since has been nagging at me. Not as any sort of contribution to silly season, instead that Lewis Hamilton has long struck me as an archetypal Ferrari driver. The sort that the tifosi would really take it their heart.

I outline my reasoning for thinking this way in my latest Motorsport Week. You can have a read here: https://www.motorsportweek.com/news/id/15261

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

British GP Betting Preview - Channelling your inner Nige

Perhaps you need to start listening to me. A disturbing number of calls in last week's Austrian Grand Prix betting preview came in: the Valtteri Bottas pole, the pole winning margin, Daniel Ricciardo to get on the podium, as well as Romain Grosjean and Lance Stroll to get points.

Lewis Hamilton has a very strong record at his home round
Photo: Octane Photography
And now we have the British round. As outlined in my event preview there are reasons to think Mercedes will be on top - both to do with recent form and with the Silverstone track specifically. While of the Merc pair there are plenty of reasons to expect Lewis Hamilton to dominate.

He appears to have inherited Nigel Mansell's old knack of finding additional resolve for his home race. And, oh yeah, he's won the last three British Grands Prix. Therefore the evens available for Lewis to win again looks rather like a steal.

His odds for pole are a little more swingeing, but might given everything still be worth backing at 11/17. The other Merc of Bottas at 7/2 to get pole appears a good outside bet.

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Ricciardo: The Only Happy Red Bull Driver

What does Max Verstappen need to do to finish a race this season? His dismal luck reminds us of Michael Schumacher's 2000 title campaign! Either way, it is time Verstappen goes woo-ing his Lady Luck, again. Maybe, Red Bull Racing needs to rename the RB13 to get rid of the bad luck!

In the Red Bull Racing ecosystem, Daniel Ricciardo seems to be the only driver 'happy'. Carlos Sainz Jr. had a public spat regarding his future; given Red Bull Racing's attitude, he should be glad it wasn't a public slap. As for Daniil Kvyat, he was let off leniently by the FIA for his 'torpedo' move, but will Red Bull Racing let him off as lightly?

In this week's episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast, Mithila and Kunal wonder how and why are people expecting Valtteri Bottas to be the third title contender for the season. Has he done enough to warrant a contract extension with Mercedes? Similarly, Fernando Alonso is in high demand. Maybe he should approach a multi-team contract option for 2018. You'll have to tune-in to understand this crazy idea of ours better.

Finally, McLaren have suggested that Formula 1 should purchase Silverstone. Given McLaren's recent Formula 1 decisions, we'd advise Carey & Team to just ignore that suggestion. Tune in!

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

(Season 2017, Episode 26)

Monday, 10 July 2017

Silverstone Preview - Patriot games

Every year at around about this time I experience conflict. I'm not one driven by patriotism, and this applies especially to F1 wherein nationalities have never mattered a jot to me. But even I cannot deny that there is something about the British Grand Prix.

There's something about the British Grand
Prix, and Silverstone
Photo: Octane Photography
It can't even be said that its hardy host Silverstone has universal appeal. It's not glamourous, nor picture postcard. Its look is rather lunar. The late Christopher Hilton once suggested, possibly harshly, that "people get emotional at Silverstone but not emotional about Silverstone. Even when they're trying to save it, they're doing it because they want the British Grand Prix to survive, not because emotion dictates Silverstone."

Yet still few refute that the Northamptonshire circuit bows to almost none in being part of the F1 furniture. And this is for a number of reasons.

Chief among these is that it is F1's home gig. Seven of F1's ten teams are based (or in Haas's case has a base) in Britain, and six of these are within a few miles of the Silverstone track. So are a myriad of companies that supply them in this sport's equivalent of silicon valley.

Austrian Grand Prix review for Motor Verso - Bottas joins the party

Perhaps F1 squeezed all of its current quota of frolics into the last round in Azerbaijan. As in Austria, despite reasons to expect thrills the race provided very few of them. Not before the very end anyway.

Photo: Octane Photography
But still there was plenty to admire about how Valtteri Bottas dominated for much of the distance, then - in a spooky parallel with his previous win in Russia - was unflinching as Sebastian Vettel chased him down in the final throes.

And the race could be significant too, as while this season we've relished our two's company world championship fight, Bottas may be turning it into a crowd of three...

Here's my take on it all for Motor Verso: http://www.motorverso.com/austrian-gp-2017-report-bottas-joins-party/

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, 9 July 2017

Austrian GP Report - Bottas barks

It was, as Sherlock Holmes might have it, the dog that didn't bark. Rarely had we entered a race with so many apparent variables as today's in Austria. Lewis Hamilton from starting eighth would come through the pack. The higher temperatures made tyre life - particularly via blistering - unknown. Some would have to switch to the soft compound having hardly, or in some cases having never, run them this weekend. Rain was around too, a few putting the likelihood at 80%.

Just like in Russia, Valtteri Bottas took a fine win with
Sebastian Vettel breathing down his neck
Photo: Octane Photography
None of these things happened. Instead we got a study in domination from poleman Valtteri Bottas. Fine it was too.

He started as he meant to go on. His race get-go was so good that some thought it was too good, and the stewards investigated a jump start. Second-place starter Sebastian Vettel considered the Finn bang to rights. "From my point of view, he jumped the start - I was sure that he did," said Vettel later. "It looked like it from inside the car, but it's not for me to judge at the end of the day."

Simply not moving before the lights go out ain't necessarily enough; if you're moving within two tenths of a second of it - beyond human capability it is thought - you'll still get penalised for an anticipated launch. And Bottas clocked it at... 0.201secs. It appears instead it simply was the perfect start.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Red Bull Ring Qualifying - Hamlet with the Prince

It looked like qualifying would be Hamlet without the Prince. But we had a Prince, just not the one anticipated. The pretender stepped up.

Valtteri Bottas, it turned out, was the prince of qualifying
Photo: Octane Photography
Yesterday around Austria's Red Bull Ring Lewis Hamilton looked on a plateau. Easily quickest in all circumstances it seemed. Enjoying a Mercedes that seems now shorn of its diva leanings; happy on all tyre compounds.

Yet after the day's running we found out it was not quite as it seemed, as gearbox damage from Baku (no, not due to that) meant that wherever Lewis 'qualified' in Austria he'd add five to the number.

Thus the qualifying hour became a lot about his team mate Valtteri Bottas. The onus was on him to tape up pole instead, not only for himself but to help his colleague.

He did his bit. Lewis didn't. In the first goes of quali's final part the Finn posted a decent 1m 04.251 to top the charts, though his lap was by no means perfect (he did get a nice tow from a Force India however and aced the second part of the lap). Lewis after a scrappy run posted a 1m 04.424. Worse it allowed the perennial Sebastian Vettel to sneak between them.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Ferrari's Most Crucial Race Of 2017 Yet?

Ferrari arrive under pressure at the Red Bull Ring - one of the most beautiful circuits on the Formula 1 calendar. Has the FIA evened out the supposed bias towards Ferrari? On one hand, it's let go Sebastian Vettel fairly leniently (says the public!) and on the other hand, it's clamped down 'oil burn' which most rivals believe has slowed down Ferrari. The general perception is that Ferrari is back to chasing Mercedes; so is the 2017 Austrian Grand Prix Ferrari's most crucial race of the season yet?

In this week's episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast, we applaud the FIA's humour on the serious investigation of Vettel's transgressions in Baku and we wonder whose word we trust more - Toto Wolff's or Eddie Jordan's? With nearly a quarter of a million pounds after his McLaren exit, should Ron Dennis buy-out Force India - or the to-be-named Force One Formula One Team? Finally, Robert Kubica's heroic comeback will be granted super-heroic status if it is with the scarlet red Ferrari instead of the taxi-coloured Renault. Tune in!

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

(Season 2017, Episode 25)

Austrian GP Betting Preview - Clear view in the Styrian hills?

Lately, for the first time in 2017, we perhaps are getting some clarity at the front in F1. Ignore Baku's hoo-ha, for our purposes the big steer therein is that Mercedes dominated on pace and the best Ferrari was upwards of a second off Lewis Hamilton's pole time. Merc also got a one-two in the preceding race in Canada. And this weekend's challenge in Austria - mostly straights and tight turns - is similar to those.

Lewis Hamilton will be looking to capitalise on Mercedes's
recent improved form
Photo: Octane Photography
To some extent this is reflected in the odds, yet 9/10 available for Lewis to win the Styrian race and 7/10 for him to get the pole may still be worth your while.

However Lewis at the Red Bull Ring in qualifying at least hasn't always had the happiest time, as in his first two visits after F1 returned in 2014 he botched his final Saturday effort. With this, how about his team mate Valtteri Bottas takes advantage to pinch pole? You can get 9/2 on him to do so.

Times in Austria often are close - due to a short lap and a layout that doesn't discriminate as much as others between good and not so good aero packages. And you can get 13/8 on there being a pole winning margin of less than a tenth of a second.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Red Bull Ring Preview - Changing of the seasons

F1 has developed a season. A bit like the tennis calendar has a grass court season (though that phrase always amuses me given it seems to consist solely of Wimbledon and some warm-up tournaments for Wimbledon). It now is in a mini-run of tracks cut from the same cloth.

The Red Bull Ring has become a popular stop-off
Photo: Octane Photography
We had Montreal, then Baku, and the run is completed this weekend by the Red Bull Ring in Austria. These circuits each are made up mainly of straights, some long, separately almost exclusively by slow turns. Point and squirt, as we used to say. Straightline speed, braking stability and traction are the chief discriminators.

The image of the Red Bull Ring has over time shifted about as frequently as its name. When F1 first rocked up in 1997, to what was then called the A1-Ring, many struggled to forgive it for trampling the magnificent Österreichring underfoot. In sharp contrast the new version seemed then achingly tepid.

It dropped off the calendar after 2003, but then Red Bull money - as evidenced in the current nomenclature - brought it back for 2014. And we then got a demonstration that time is a great healer, or else that things are judged in their context. Suddenly the track had developed a charm in the age of the cavernous Tilke-drome (ironic as this was in fact Hermann Tilke's first F1 effort). It seems now to be a firm fan's favourite.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

F1's engine conundrum

Theoretically the F1 engine spec is set in stone until 2020. Yet the debate about what happens then has started early. The sport's brave new world put in place at the turn of the year coincided with a starting gun being fired for wrangling over whither, and more to the point whether, the current hybrid power units.

F1's debate about the future of its engines has started early
Photo: Octane Photography
The resultant conundrum brings us quickly to a core debate. Does F1's technology not matter much so long as the racing is good? Or should F1, to coin the phrase, also be about 'improving the breed'? In other words, should it provide a test bed for road car manufacturers, as it virtually always has at least to some extent?

If it is the latter, then as things stand the disconnect is becoming clear. As the redoubtable Dieter Rencken observed when visiting last year's Geneva International Motor Show, while F1 references were thin on the ground any number of manufacturers were at pains to flaunt their connection with the new-ish all-electric motorsport category, Formula E.

They're voting with their feet too. "In 2016/7, the number of manufacturers represented on FE grids (Renault, DS, Audi, VW, NEXTEV, Mahindra, Jaguar, with Nissan possibly joining off the back of alliance partner Renault) could outnumber automotive brands currently in F1 by eight to five, if, that is, one views McLaren-Honda as two entities," noted Rencken.