Saturday 30 September 2017

Sepang Qualifying - Taking advantage of your fortune

Lewis Hamilton bagging pole position hardly seems a surprise. This was his 70th ever, as well as his fourth in a row here. But, boy, did we have a journey getting there.

Lewis Hamilton took brought the Malaysia
weekend full circle by taking pole
Photo: Octane Photography
After his and Mercedes's dash from jail in Singapore, leaving with a 28 point championship lead, the consensus was that was that. Yet once cars started to circulate the Sepang track this weekend no one was quite as sure.

There were reasons to think in advance that Malaysia would not be a Merc cakewalk, but it was off the pace to an extent that shocked. There wasn't an obvious explanation either - nothing peculiar to short runs or to the tyres, or a lack of balance. It just lacked grip.

And Merc and Lewis's direct title rivals Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel stepped into the breach. Suddenly it threatened to be a lot like Singapore's build up - them on top and Red Bull in the mix. The third row looking possible/probable for Merc. And with it a healthy points swing was on for Seb.

Thursday 28 September 2017

Daniel Ricciardo connects with fans over FaceTime

You've got to love Daniel Ricciardo, possibly F1's most glowing personality.

And a sponsor of his Red Bull team, ExxonMobil, gave a few F1 fans - who had used the hashtag #SpeedDialDaniel - an opportunity to speak directly to Danny Ric live via FaceTime and ask him a burning question of their choice.

The results are below. And from what I can see he doesn't mistake any of their nationalities...

Wednesday 27 September 2017

Malaysia GP Betting Preview - Battle of the big three?

It's not just due to geography that the Malaysia Grand Prix this weekend feels a short hop from the previous round in Singapore. They share sapping heat, and it will be if anything more intense this time given it's run in the day time. We've seen plenty - including in Singapore - that Mercedes struggles relatively when the temperature rises.

Will the Malaysian round be a close
battle of the big three teams?
By Morio (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://
by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
And as a partial consequence this race feels a close call between the 'big three' teams.

Here two years ago Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari flat beat Lewis Hamilton Merc on tyre longevity in the tough conditions. Plus the Scuderia has an updated engine this weekend. With all this the 13/5 for Seb to win looks better value than the evens for Lewis.

Like in Singapore too Red Bull will look to this one with optimism. It looked strong in Hungary on the supersoft tyre in hot conditions and this is what it'll get here. The team of course scored a 1-2 in this race last season, albeit aided by a late engine failure for Lewis. But even so its showing was strong.

Tuesday 26 September 2017

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Did The Success Of The Singapore GP Cause Malaysia's F1 Exit?

After 19 illustrious years, Formula 1 will bid adieu to the Malaysian Grand Prix (and the Sepang International Circuit) this Sunday. While the gesture to release a full-race edit of the 2001 Malaysian Grand Prix is a good one, did the success of the Singapore Grand Prix cost Formula 1 (and us!) the Malaysian Grand Prix? Or have the Motorsport fans in Malaysia chosen MotoGP over Formula 1?

In this week's episode, we talk about the Red Bull Racing-Aston Martin partnership - will James Bond make an appearance in Formula 1? Will Red Bull or Formula 1 use 007 to promote the sport? We were the first ones to suggest this! (Do check our previous episode 'James Bond in Formula 1?' below)

Will the Strolls have a say in selecting the lead Williams driver in 2018? Are McLaren already jumping the gun with Renault? And finally, who will jump on the top step of the podium in Sepang while the FIA have tightened the rule for jump-starters! All this and more in the Inside Line F1 Podcast.

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

Tune in!

(Season 2017, Episode 32)

Monday 25 September 2017

Sepang Preview: The days of future past

Sepang was the future once. When it arrived in 1999 it was the great leap forward. Bernie Ecclestone hailed the venue for the Malaysian Grand Prix immediately as "the best in the world".

The future once - the Sepang venue makes its F1 curtain call
By Morio (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://
by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
It was a template too. The built-from-scratch all-mod-cons Hermann Tilke typology is now familiar. This was the first.

The template stretches to the circuit layout - a long straight book-ended by tight corners (this track has at least two of them indeed) intended to provide overtaking, with a variety of types of turn elsewhere including a high speed esses section.

Even its motivation was as would become grimly samey - the Malaysian Prime Minister wanted to promote the country as an industrial and business destination and bankrolled the event to this end.

Saturday 23 September 2017

New Motorsport Week article: Putting the leader first - what happens if F1 titles are based on laps led?

By Suyk, Koen / Anefo / neg. stroken, 1945-1989, 2.24.
01.05, item number 929-3235 [CC BY-SA 3.0 nl
by-sa/3.0/nl/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons
You likely will have discerned that I'm one of those who likes F1 history.

With this I like to look for anniversaries, which took me 40 years ago to the 1977 season. I also like a 'what if?' And both of these came together for me to wonder, how would F1 history would look if world championships were based on laps led in the season and not points?

In my latest article for Motorsport Week I investigated. And it's surprisingly interesting, even uncovering a fundamental of how exactly F1 has changed over time.

You can have a read here:

Tuesday 19 September 2017

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Do We Have To Blame Someone For The Singapore Car-nage?

Formula 1 tested a live 360 degree telecast of the 2017 Singapore Grand Prix. While this wasn't available for fans to consume, if it was, the footage would've only offered more angles to fans to dissect the Verstappen-Raikkonen-Vettel clash and pinpoint the blame on a driver. But do we really have to blame this on someone? Let's take the FIA's lead, classify it as a 'racing incident' and move on. Or like Mithila said, she'd love to use the 360 degree footage to see Fernando Alonso's air-borne 360 degree spin!

In this week's episode, we tell you why a Lewis Hamilton win in Singapore is actually an unusual result, why Carlos Sainz Jr. might need to drop the 'Jr.' from his name next season and wonder if Nico Rosberg has any clout whatsoever to help Robert Kubica make a heroic comeback to the sport. Also, we can't believe that Daniel Ricciardo actually admitted to farting at an official press conference!

Has Mercedes forgotten their other junior driver, Pascal Wehrlein? And will both of Ferrari's junior drivers (Giovinazzi and Leclerc) make it to Formula 1 next season? And finally, should Jolyon Palmer take the money and make way for Sainz to make his Renault debut in Malaysia?

Tune in!

(Season 2017, Episode 31)

Monday 18 September 2017

Singapore Grand Prix review for Motor Verso - Not like other sports

For better or for worse, motor sport is not like other sports. We got our latest demonstration of this in Singapore.

Photo: Octane Photography
It was the equivalent of a football team expected to win easily finding themselves 5-0 down seconds into the match. And with no hope of a come back. All due to Sebastian Vettel's ill-fated decision to 'cover off' his fellow front row man Max Verstappen, which went very wrong.

And thus while it looked like Seb could hardly not re-take his title lead, perhaps by a distance, now it looks Lewis Hamilton's championship to lose.

You can read my take on it all 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.

Sunday 17 September 2017

Singapore GP Report - Not drowning but waving

Motorsport, as we are often given cause to reflect, is not like other sports. Just like in those, we predict with confidence. But unlike in most of those, things can and do look unrecognisable in a blink. Things like a rain shower. A standing start. An accident.

Lewis Hamilton was an unlikely winner
Photo: Octane Photography
That's what we got in Singapore. Sebastian Vettel looked serene on pole. Granted the Red Bulls would be strong in the race, but from the championship angle his rival Lewis Hamilton was flailing down in fifth. Surely he would at least re-take his long-held drivers' title table lead. It was a matter of how far by.

It had rained earlier on race day, but it appeared it would matter not. But then more arrived around 10 minutes before the start, meaning for the first time ever we had wet night time running under floodlights in F1.

Rain is frequent in Singapore; perhaps the most remarkable thing was it had never hit running here before in ten visits. Not, that anyone could remember, so much as a practice session or support race. Until today.

Saturday 16 September 2017

Singapore Qualifying - Doing it when it matters

It looked like it would be very different. But, when it mattered, first place looked rather familiar.

Sebastian Vettel against expectations
pipped the Red Bull pair
Photo: Octane Photogrpahy
In this latest Singapore gathering F1, it appeared, was going back to the future. On a twisty track that would suit its car and an aero upgrade under its belt, Red Bull topped all three practice sessions and the first two parts of qualifying. At points of the weekend the RB13 pair looked on another level. Just like old times.

But qualifying is a high bar. Ferrari and Mercedes would crank their power units up. Plus there are more general considerations here. Like Monaco track evolution at Singapore is skyward - good times cannot be sat on. Like there solid things are near to punish those who get it slightly wrong.

It was going well for the Bull pair nevertheless, but then they discovered that Sebastian Vettel sets the bar highest of all. Particularly in Saturday's final throes.

Wednesday 13 September 2017

Singapore GP Betting Preview - Ferrari to fly under floodlights

It appears the bookies have done their homework. In virtually every round this year Lewis Hamilton has been their favourite to prevail. But Singapore, in many ways, is different.

Will Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari be celebrating
in Singapore again?
Photo: Octane Photography
The sinewy track is expected to favour Ferrari and reflecting this Sebastian Vettel vaults to the shortest odds this time. Even so 13/8 for Seb to get the win and the same for the pole look well worth your stake. He's a local specialist too, having won here four times.

Red Bull is another that should be suited to Singapore. Daniel Ricciardo finished on the podium in all of his last three Singapore visits while in the last two years these were as a very close second. He is available at a very generous 11/8 to get onto the podium again. His team mate Max Verstappen's odds are slightly shorter, at 5/4, to do the same.

Still if Ferrari is likely to be on top we shouldn't forget Kimi Raikkonen, who has been right there with Seb in the two similar twisty challenges this season of Monaco and Hungary. And the bookies may have forgotten about him - he's a full 14/1 to win, 16/1 to get the pole and even 13/8 to finish on the podium.

Monday 11 September 2017

Singapore Preview: F1's light fantastic

We all know about F1's gradual shift eastwards in recent decades. It hasn't always been loved either.

F1's light fantastic - the Singapore round
has become a fixture
Photo: Octane Photography
But there's one still relatively new race that was thought part of the furniture in double-quick time. The race is this weekend - the Singapore Grand Prix around the Marina Bay circuit.

For several reasons this one feels a lot like the Monaco for the new millennium. It is a glittering, vibrant event in which the visuals rarely fail to look stunning.

Just like Monaco, Singapore is a city state that is a quintessential Grand Prix host - glamorous and dripping with money. To the point that you wonder why there wasn't a F1 race here decades ago.

New Motorsport Week article: Is McLaren making a mistake by ditching Honda?

Photo: Octane Photography
The end is nigh it seems. Of the ever-embarrassing latest McLaren Honda link up. That of breathless engines that seem forever to find new ways of stopping.

Carlos Sainz is going to Renault for next year they say. Which will placate Renault into letting Toro Rosso pick up the Honda unit before the end of its contract, which in turn will free up some Renault units for McLaren. Sighs of relief all round.

But in my latest for Motorsport Week I ask the unthinkable - might McLaren actually be making a mistake in ditching Honda?

You can read my reasoning here:

Friday 8 September 2017

Italian Grand Prix review for Motor Verso - Order from chaos

It started with a chaotic qualifying session, but come the end of the race no one sought to point at it as an explanation for the result.

Photo: Octane Photography
Very quickly order was restored, and from there Mercedes crushed Ferrari. Thus in the space of the week Spa succour became Monza malaise for the Italian challenger.

Lewis Hamilton now leads the table for the first time this year, but Singapore is next where Ferrari is expected to be on top again. But then again, this title fight has had a few twists already.

Here's my review of whatr went on in Italy 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.

Tuesday 5 September 2017

Italian GP Report - Mercedes mastery

This F1 championship battle seems determined to fox us.

The Italian Grand Prix was all about Mercedes,
and especially Lewis Hamilton
Photo: Octane Photography
In many ways this one at Monza was a lot like the one at Spa a week before. A high speed track that we thought could be designed for Mercedes. Indeed it's likely so to an even greater extent than the Belgian track - plenty of long straights to show its top end grunt; few corners that Ferrari can catch up in. Merc's trimmed set up appears the more efficient too.

And the winner was as expected - Merc's very own Lewis Hamilton.

Highlighting the ebb and flow he thus became the first back-to-back winner this season. With it he took the title lead for the first time.

But just like in Spa the significance for plotting the championship destination laid instead in the margin of the victory. Only this time the other way around - this time Merc was even further ahead of Ferrari than anticipated. Spa titled predictions towards Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel; this one titled them back.

Monday 4 September 2017

Firstpost Video - Italian Grand Prix Review

The latest Firstpost Video Grand Prix Review is here. Mithila and Kunal (now based in Norway!) of Inside Line F1 Podcast look at yesterday's Italian Grand Prix. They discuss the dominant Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes of course, the other protagonists including Valtteri Bottas and Esteban Ocon, Ferrari's flop at home, as well as other matters of moment such as grid penalties...

You can watch below: