Tuesday 31 July 2018

Working Within Benetton During the 1990s, by Ibrar Malik

"Berger was the thickest driver I have worked with, Alesi was a close second," ...those are the forthright views of a former Benetton mechanic who is ready to let rip!

The ex-Benetton mechanic has kindly contributed towards the upcoming book, but cannot be named because he still works in F1. However his anonymity means he can be brutally honest. 

Benetton started 1996 with high hopes having just been crowned drivers and constructors' champions. Despite losing Michael Schumacher, the Enstone team was gaining a hugely gifted racer in Jean Alesi. Its other incoming driver, Gerhard Berger, was F1's elder statesman having partnered the likes of Ayrton Senna at McLaren. If Benetton could harness Alesi's talent or Berger's experience surely more success lay on the horizon. However, things didn't quite pan out like that...

Hungarian GP Report - Lightening strikes twice

In a season of often inexplicable twists and turns, this one in Hungary was instead an case of history repeating. Appropriately for 2018, the lightening hitting the precise same spots as in Germany a week ago was in itself highly uncanny.

Lewis Hamilton took his second unlikely win in a row
Photo: Octane Photography
Just like then Mercedes and particularly Lewis Hamilton at the Hungaroring looked out of it. Just like then Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari looked poised to make a major gain in the championship. Just like then rain then arrived and tilted things decisively towards Hamilton, who against expectations made the sizeable points gain instead. Only this time the rain arrived in qualifying.

A few sniggered behind their palms when Hamilton hinted at divine intervention after the elements came to his aid in Germany. But with them now doing that right on cue for two rounds now on the spin, it may as well have been have been a matter of someone consciously guiding events his way.

Qualifying order means a lot in F1 of course, and it has long meant a lot at the tight and sinewy Hungaroring. Sure enough leading from the race's off formed the basis of Hamilton's latest victory - but his performance on Sunday and particularly Saturday was highly impressive even so.

Friday 27 July 2018

Inside Line F1 Podcast - McLaren Approached Lewis Hamilton Too?

Lewis Hamilton, Formula 1's reigning World Champion and super star, recently admitted that a 'rival' team attempted to sign him for 2019 and 2020. In this week's episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast, we speculate if this 'rival' was McLaren indeed. Given their love for PR and attempts at signing high-profile drivers, should we be surprised?

Also in this episode, we discuss the ONLY pitfall of the double and triple headers in Formula 1, the driver sillier season which could see Esteban Ocon at Renault while Lance Stroll's bankers and Sergio Perez's sponsors fight for a seat at Force India. Should the Mexican driver race for the all-American Haas F1 Team, what could Donald Trump's reaction be? And of course, we talk about the Neymar and Jesus Christ of Formula 1. Basically, there's a lot of banter, humour and stories from the world of Formula 1. Tune in!

(Season 2018, Episode 25)

Subscribe to the Inside Line F1 Podcast on iTunes and on audioBoom (RSS feed) for your weekly dose of Formula 1 humour

Wednesday 25 July 2018

Hungarian GP Betting Preview - On the other hand...

Working out who is best to back for this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix may be a matter of balancing a set of scales. Each of the big three teams have reasons to back them. And not to back them.

Will Red Bull be repeating its Monaco celebrations?
Photo: Octane Photography
We can start with Red Bull. The twisty Hungaroring track looks like it could be designed for its car, including that it will show up its horsepower deficit less than any other circuit on the calendar Monaco aside. Red Bull won in Monaco which is a track plenty liken to this one and likely would have had a one-two there without Max Verstappen binning it in Saturday morning practice.

The team clearly thinks this is a conspicuous chance to win too given how it stockpiled engine part penalties for Daniel Ricciardo in Germany to avoid the need to have anything like that here. The only trouble is its actual record at this track which is oddly poor. The team has only won here twice and one of those was a crazy rain-impacted race in 2014 wherein Ricciardo took the lead late on. Otherwise its solitary triumph was back in 2010.

Tuesday 24 July 2018

Hungaroring Preview: Straining every sinew

The Hungaroring is a hard one to pin down. This is even though we have had plenty of time to form a view - this weekend's visit will be the 33rd time without interruption that it has hosted the annual Hungarian Grand Prix.

Can Ferrari lead the way like last year in Hungary?
Photo: Octane Photography
It goes right back to when the fraternity first rocked up in 1986. Crowds were vast, its facilities gleamed, the welcome was warm and everything had been laid on. Many cite it as the first of the sort of national-backed purpose-built autodrome that now dominates the calendar. For good or ill.

More pointedly views on the track's layout varied as well. Tight and sinewy with little opportunity to pass, it still has the lowest average speed of any purpose-built track on the calendar. 'Monaco without the houses' quickly became its label. Yet even so the track is challenging and its popularity among drivers is reasonably widespread.

Moreover the Hungaroring over time developed a knack of being the stage of drama, often of the sort wherein great drivers put in great drives - as a technical track on which the driver can make the difference. Nigel Mansell's against-all-odds beating of the McLarens from 12th on the grid in 1989; Damon Hill oh-so nearly pulling off probably the biggest shock win of all time in the Arrows in 1997; Michael Schumacher's suspension of normality in 1998. There are plenty other examples besides.

Inside Line F1 Podcast - The Nico Hulkenberg Interview Podcast

Nico Hulkenberg, one of two German drivers racing in the 2018 Formula 1 Season, joined us on this special episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast. We discussed Hulkenberg's career prospects, relationship with Renault and Carlos Sainz Jr, the possibilities of racing for either Ferrari or Mercedes and even about his elusive podium.

Hulkenberg also expresses his positivity on the changes being introduced in Formula 1 from the 2019 Formula 1 Season and who he would choose between an easy-to-beat and a competitive team-mate. Tune in!

(Season 2018, Episode 24)

Subscribe to the Inside Line F1 Podcast on iTunes and on audioBoom (RSS feed) for your weekly dose of Formula 1 humour

Monday 23 July 2018

German GP Report - Hamilton rains on Vettel's parade

We never learn. Despite constant reminders. Despite everything.

Lewis Hamilton took an unlikely win
Photo: Octane Photography
F1's mantras are familiar - that anything can and does happen; that it's not over until it's over; that no points are handed out until the chequered flag is waved. The trouble is we don't abide by them. Not even in this season which has contained more shifts - between and within weekends - than likely just about any other.

The German Grand Prix weekend at Hockenheim was but the latest reminder of the mantras' efficacy. And the sternest one. Sebastian Vettel took a crushing pole position in his Ferrari - Mercedes spoke of the Italian car having a half second advantage on the straights alone. And moreover Vettel's title foe Lewis Hamilton started 14th after a qualifying hydraulics failure on his Mercedes. Worse for him the suggestion floated that it was his error that caused the failure. Sure enough the arithmetic started about how much Vettel would extend his title lead by.

But once the points were handed out things could hardly have looked more different. Vettel was in the wall and Hamilton, somehow, had come through to win. His title lead was not only reclaimed but healthy looking at 17. In a season of turns this was its sharpest.

Wednesday 18 July 2018

German GP Betting Preview - Home where the hurt is?

We again start our betting preview with a lament. The usual one that F1, particularly at the front, has lately been both close and unpredictable. Even in the last round, at Silverstone, where we thought that it was obvious Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes country. It didn't work out that way.

Sebastian Vettel looks well poised - but his record
at Hockenheim is poor
Photo: Octane Photography
This time for the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim taking place this weekend we can add the lament that it's been two years and one major regulation change since F1 cars were last here. So there's not even much useful previous when seeking to identify betting value.

Still if recent rounds have taught us anything it is that Ferrari will be in the mix pretty much anywhere. It's gone well recently on similar tracks to this one, made up mainly of straights separated by short and sharp turns (such as Montreal and the Red Bull Ring). It possibly has the strongest engine these days too which will matter here as a large proportion of the lap is full throttle

There's only one problem, that homeboy Sebastian Vettel's record here is weirdly poor - his best (official) Hockenheim result is third and he's only ever led three laps at this circuit.

Monday 16 July 2018

Hockenheim Preview: Back in the old routine

This year's F1 calendar has something of a throwback look. We're in the midst of an extended (welcome) and crammed (less welcome) European season, as two 'prestige' rounds have returned. The French Grand Prix is back after a long absence, and the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim - the latest of which is this weekend - is back too, following a year off.

F1 returns to Hockenheim after a year away
Photo: Octane Photography
The absence in the case of the German race has a different explanation as well. This Grand Prix used to alternate between Hockenheim and the Nurburgring, but the latter fell into financial bother and dropped out. And rather summing up the modern F1 host's absurd predicament Hockenheim didn't step into the resultant breach as it didn't fancy making its loss from staging the race every 12 months rather than as it currently stands every 24...

So we now have a German race every other year. And in another typical characteristic the event's future seems to linger under permanent doubt; its current contract expires this year.

The modern Hockenheim circuit is mostly about braking and traction as it doesn't really have corners that are quick or long, instead being made up of straights separated by short and often sharp turns. It's also something of a power track as a high proportion of the lap is full throttle. Although the modern tendency is to lament the new Hockenheim in comparison with the old version used up to 2001, in these senses the new place chimes with the old.

Saturday 14 July 2018

New Motorsport Week article: Why there are good points in F1 points for everyone

Photo: Octane Photography
Force India boss let the cat out of the bag that F1 is considering changing its points system, perhaps to an IndyCar/NASCAR style format wherein everyone gets at least something from their race.

It met with a round of derision; perhaps with good reason. But in my latest feature for Motorsport Week I outline that the shift would in fact have a few benefits too. And in ways we might not instantly expect.

You can have a read of my thinking here: https://www.motorsportweek.com/news/id/19056

Wednesday 11 July 2018

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Points For Everyone? Please, No, F1

The 'points for all' topic is disturbing. No, please don't go down this road, Formula 1. We've gone from awarding points to top-6 to top-8 and now 50% of the grid (top-10) scores points. By increasing the base of points scorers to 100% (all-20), we will go from incentivising drivers to win or finish higher to simply just finishing races. Is this Formula 1's way of retaining Fernando Alonso?

In this week's episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast, the 'What Wolff Said This Week' section is hilarious, because Toto Wolff did have a lot to say in the 2018 British Grand Prix. We discuss if Mercedes and Haas can learn a thing of two from Force India, the epic (and rare!) Kimi Raikkonen vs. Max Verstappen battle, the creative use of DRS by the FIA and how we shouldn't be harsh in judging Stoffel Vandoorne's talent just yet. Also, we explain why the talk of Mercedes being inexperienced to handle fierce external competition is untrue. Tune in!

(Season 2018, Episode 22)

Inside Line F1 Podcast on iTunes and on audioBoom (RSS feed) for your weekly dose of Formula 1 humour

Tuesday 10 July 2018

Motor Verso F1 2018 Season Summary - British Grand Prix review

Photo: Octane Photography
The ever-expanding Motor Verso F1 summary written by me has now been updated with my take on the thrilling British Grand Prix.

Virtually every race in 2018 has changed the competitive picture at the front, and this one at Silverstone was perhaps the biggest break of all.

Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel won and impressively at likely its biggest away fixture. With this we might surmise that they can win anywhere.

You can check out my take on it, as well as great Pirelli photos and the best of the internet, here: https://www.motorverso.com/2018-f1-summary/

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.

Monday 9 July 2018

British GP Report - Red ratification?

The British Grand Prix was about coming to a realisation. Martin Brundle called it in Friday practice - that in 2018 we have to get used to the idea that Ferrari will be quick everywhere. And if this one was the red car's ultimate test then it passed it triumphantly.

Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel passed their toughest
test with flying colours
Photo: Octane Photography
In every sense - literal and metaphorical - Silverstone is Ferrari's away fixture. Not only as one of a small minority of teams not to have a base a short drive away, it also is a track that we thought could have been designed for its chief rival Mercedes. Results say this too with the silver team winning the previous five here - most dominantly - and Lewis Hamilton in Nigel Mansell-esque style being particularly happy at home, taking the last four.

Yet this time Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari won, and deservedly. On that basis they can win anywhere. Maybe it's the car to beat this year.

Granted there were some adventures in getting there, but the bottom line is that Ferrari - armed with a new floor which seemed to electrify the red cars and straightline speed that rival Daniel Ricciardo described as '"insane" - looked at least as fast as Mercedes throughout on the latter's happiest of hunting grounds. Only Hamilton pulling a rabbit out of the hat - again Mansell-esque on his home ground - denied Ferrari pole. Otherwise the Scuderia was never denied.

Wednesday 4 July 2018

British GP Betting Preview - Not looking for a new England

We might think that we start this one with little hope. In our previous betting preview we bemoaned that predicting F1 outcomes is a perilous task right now, and then we had an Austrian race where what we got barely resembled what we reasonably anticipated at the start.

It's worth backing a Mercedes at Silverstone
Photo: Octane Photography
But that we're at Silverstone means the clouds part (unusually for Silverstone you might say) and we get a clear view. Because we have a striking consistent previous to go on.

Mercedes usually dominates here and Lewis Hamilton especially dominates - he's won his last four home rounds. And even with the Mercedes and Lewis trauma that went down in Austria likely the biggest implication was that Merc had stolen a march on the rest with its upgrade.

Therefore there's likely little point putting your money anywhere else for pole and win. And even so the odds for Hamilton to do these offer a pretty decent return - he can be backed at 4/5 to get pole and evens to win.

While if you really want to get behind the prospect of Lewis dominating then there are other ways you can bet on it. A pole, fastest lap and win triumvirate for any driver - i.e. not just Hamilton - can be backed at 11/4 and a pole winning margin of over two tenths can be backed at evens. Mercedes tends also to be strong in first practice and you can back Hamilton to top that session at 5/4.

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Welcome To Podcasts, Formula 1

Welcome to the world of podcasts, Formula 1. We've had your back for the last six years and now we look forward to you increasing the size of the pie for all of us ;-)

In this week's episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast, we wonder if Sebastian Vettel will conclude the triple header by scoring a hat-trick of penalties; or can he actually win the 2018 British Grand Prix? Fernando Alonso holds the key to the driver market for 2019, or does he? Btw, we speculate if Alonso will continue to participate in the World Endurance Championship next season, or will he focus fully on the IndyCar Series?

Charles Leclerc could end up damaging the careers of at least one Haas driver next season - who would it be? And finally, we tell you why Mercedes and Formula 1 need to hire talent from outside of Europe. Tune in!

Inside Line F1 Podcast on iTunes and on audioBoom (RSS feed) for your weekly dose of Formula 1 humour

(Season 2018, Episode 21)

Tuesday 3 July 2018

Motor Verso F1 2018 Season Summary - Austrian Grand Prix review

Photo: Octane Photography
The ever-expanding Motor Verso F1 summary written by me has now been updated with my best attempt to sum up a thrilling and corkscrew - and surprising - Austrian Grand Prix.

It also contains my French Grand Prix review from last week, now at the bottom of the article, which I believe I neglected to mention.

You can check all of it out here: https://www.motorverso.com/2018-f1-summary/

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.

Monday 2 July 2018

Silverstone Preview - Challenging your inner Nige

Every year at around this time I experience conflict. I'm not one driven by patriotism, particularly not in F1. But even I cannot deny that there is something about the British Grand Prix.

Even to the non-patriotic, there is
something about Silverstone
Photo: Octane Photogrpahy
It can't even be said that its hardy host Silverstone has universal appeal. It's not glamourous, nor picture postcard. Instead rather exposed and windswept.

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.

Chiefly 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. As are a myriad of companies that supply them in the F1 equivalent of silicon valley.

The venue also is among F1's most ubiquitous. It was at Silverstone that it all started in 1950, and despite sometimes extensive changes it retains much of its character - flowing, rapid and with many long and mighty turns.

Austrian GP Report - The hills are alive

As the sage Mark Gallagher noted after this one, "Ferrari will be waking up this morning dazed by how they are leading both the drivers' and constructors' championships; Mercedes at how they are not."

Max Verstappen was an unlikely - and worthy - winner
Photo: Octane Photography
Gallagher's assessment indicates that this Austrian Grand Prix was no ordinary Grand Prix - indeed it was one of those wherein advance expectation and actual outcome barely were on nodding terms.

It started though looking like it would be extremely ordinary - Mercedes armed with a technical upgrade strode a way clear and locked out the grid's front row. All spoke of two races in one with those not in silver aiming for third place at most. Then when Mercedes maintained its one-two after some first lap frolics, Lewis Hamilton ahead and poleman Valtteri Bottas boxing his way back to second after a poor get-go, that indeed looked like that.

And yet. Mercedes's empire fell within a single lap.

Sunday 1 July 2018

How to Test Drive a Used Car Before Purchase

If you are looking at purchasing a used car then there are many things to consider before handing over your money. New cars come fault free and include warranty, however, the second-hand market comes with lots of faulty, damaged or even crashed or stolen cars.

Here are a few checks that could save you a lot of money and hassle.

HPI Check - It is important to check out the car to see if it has been written off, stolen or has outstanding finance on the car. These checks can be completed online and only take a few minutes to complete and I would say it is essential for every second-hand car that is purchased. Research shows that on the roads today there are lots of cars that are being driven that have been written off or had a motor swap and then sold on as a roadworthy car. For your own safety, it is worth checking.

How to Replace Your Headlight Bulbs

There are several reasons which may require you to replace your headlight bulbs. Your bulbs may simply have outlived their lifespan or they might have got broken in an accident. No matter what the reason is, it is actually pretty easy to change your headlight bulbs on your own. 

With our handy guide, you can save your money and time by self-servicing your vehicle. Before you start the process, you are advised to assemble the required tools. In most of the cases, you only require a screwdriver, a wrench set, and a pair of gloves. 

Remove faulty headlight bulb: While this step may seem intuitive, it may take some extra effort to actually access the bulb. In most of the cases, the bulbs are accessible through the engine compartment. You may simply open the hood and replace the bulb from its holder. If you are not able to access your headlight bulb this way, then you may have to refer to your owner’s manual to figure out the way to access your headlight bulb.

Unbolt the headlight bulbs: While you may access the headlight bulbs from under the hood, it is a lot easier and more convenient to simply remove the headlight unit by unscrewing the retaining bolts. This way you can remove the whole unit and make the process more productive. You can then move on to disconnect the wiring harness. After this simply give your headlight bulb a quarter turn and pop it out. 

Insert the new one: Once you have got the faulty bulb out, you may want to clean the unit with a cloth and rubbing alcohol. You may now simply insert the new bulb in. Once you find the silicon O ring touching the slot, give your new bulb a small twist to screw it in. After this, you may reconnect the wiring harness. 
Also remain cautious that you do not touch the bulb since it may create a hot spot on the bulb. It is also judicious to wear gloves to protect your hands as well as the bulbs.

Start the vehicle: Now that your new headlight bulb is in, it is time to check that everything is fine. Start your vehicle and turn on your headlights. This is also the time

to check whether your headlights are aligned properly and have the right aim. This step will ensure that your headlights are able to throw light on the road in the correct direction. 

In order to make your headlight bulbs last longer, you may take certain precautions. Many cars come with halogen bulbs while newer cars tend to have Xenon bulbs. The latter provides whiter and brighter light. 

These are also known as High Intensity Discharge (HID) lights. If your car has HID lights, then you should remain very cautious while changing them. If you are in doubt, then take your car to a mechanic to replace your HID headlight bulbs.
Halogen bulbs tend to lose their brightness quicker. This is due to wear and tear effect caused to their filament. In these types of cases, you may want to change them even if they are still working. Since their light dims after prolonged usage, putting new headlight bulbs in will provide you brighter light and better performance. 

It is also vital to flip the switch (pun intended) for the right kind of bulb while shopping for a new one. There are many dealers and auto stores which let you provide them with your car, its model number, and other details to find out the bulbs which are compatible with your vehicle. Once you choose the brightest halogen headlight bulbs, drive safe with properly functioning headlight bulbs.