Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Latest historic articles on AutoClassics - Toleman and Schnitzer

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Here are my latest weekly historic motorsport articles for AutoClassics.

Many of us know that the Toleman team gave Ayrton Senna his F1 debut, also that it evolved into modern-day 'Team Enstone'. Yet much more even than those set this team apart. I spoke to its boss Alex Hawkridge about the highly quirky, but eventually successful, Toleman early days in F1. It's a fascinating tale. You can check it out here.

And for the Motorsport Images slideshow feature, with the recent news that its long-serving team manager Charly Lamm is to step down at the end of the year I've looked at Schnitzer Motorsport's other-worldly success in tin-tops and beyond. And I've been aided as usual by stunning photography. Feast your eyes here.

Monday, 17 September 2018

New Motorsport Week article: Charles Leclerc to Ferrari - about Sebastian Vettel not Kimi Raikkonen?

Photo: Octane Photography
This F1 drivers' market silly season this time is a gift that keeps on giving. We had the latest confirmation of an intriguing move for 2019 just last week - that of Ferrari at last rolling the dice and going with youthful Charles Leclerc rather than the known incumbent quantity of Kimi Raikkonen.

This in turn led to a lot of focus on what Ferrari therefore thinks of Raikkonen. But does the move tell us more about what Ferrari thinks of its other driver, one Sebastian Vettel?

In my latest for Motorsport Week I explore the matter of whither Vettel and Ferrari. You can have a read here: https://www.motorsportweek.com/news/id/19891

Motor Verso F1 2018 Season Summary - Singapore Grand Prix review

Photo: Octane Photography
The Motor Verso F1 2018 season summary now has my take on last weekend's Singapore Grand Prix added.

It seems like no time since we had a drivers; title fight in the delicate balance. Six rounds remain and plenty could theoretically still change in this year's championship hunt, but this one at the Marina Bay track round in more than one sense had the air of reaching a point of no return.

You can have a read of my take on it all, complete as ever with fantastic Pirelli photography, 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.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Singapore GP Report - Night terrors

How great it must be to exist in a moment where everything, almost no matter what, seems to run your way. And - yin and yang - for your direct opponent the experience must be simultaneously crushing. And it is.

Lewis Hamilton took another win -
and this one was unexpected
Photo: Octane Photography
In this Singapore round Lewis Hamilton won again and Sebastian Vettel cruised home third; thus Hamilton's title lead is up to 40. Vettel is on the cusp of needing snookers.

Worse for Seb and Ferrari it was not meant at all to be this way. This for Hamilton was the ultimate scrum won against the head, as not only was the Ferrari the quicker car in theory this has long been viewed as an outlying Mercedes bogey track. As it transpired Hamilton not only won but did so with something like comfort. Well, as comfortable as the working-out-for-two-hours-in-a-sauna Singapore race ever gets.

"They put up a good fight this weekend," noted Hamilton afterwards of Ferrari. "I'm not sure where their pace disappeared to..."

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Latest historic articles from me on AutoClassics

Credit: Jim Culp/CC
Just highlighting my latest weekly articles on historic motorsport I've written for AutoClassics.

I've written an article looking at Chris Amon in 1968. The man commonly cited as the best F1 driver never to win a grand prix, this year he could and perhaps should have won the world championship. The subject's chosen partly as it's the 50th anniversary and partly as his story is a little bit of a parallel of that of soon-to-depart-F1 Fernando Alonso. You can have a read of that here.

And given the Goodwood Revival was last weekend my Motorsport Images archive article looked at some of the highlights of the historic event's first 20 years since starting in 2018. You can look at that here.

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Leclerc: I Am Not Famous Yet!

After weeks of rumours, the Raikkonen-Leclerc swap was finally announced. Hats off to Ferrari for making an exception and realising that an early investment in Charles Leclerc's progression in the world of Formula 1 is only going to pay them early dividends. But is this also a sign from Ferrari that they are beginning to lose hope in Sebastian Vettel's erring ways?

In this week's episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast, we have bytes from the man-on-the-move himself, Charles Leclerc. We met with the driver in the month of August and spoke to him about several topics including his dream move to Ferrari, partnering with Sebastian Vettel and how he handles the fame and pressure of being such a successful Motorsport personality.

And of course, we are thrilled to see Kimi Raikkonen extend his stay in Formula 1 for a couple of more seasons. Let's enjoy our typical Raikkonen moments for as long as they last. There's a lot of Leclerc-Raikkonen-Ferrari-Sauber in this episode. Tune in!

(Season 2018, Episode 31)

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

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Singapore GP Betting Preview - Red devil?

You'll likely have seen those cartoons that feature the shoulder angel and shoulder devil. Where they pop up in turn on the protagonist's respective shoulders - the angel imploring the said protagonist to stay on the right track; the devil trying to lead them astray. For the Singapore round this weekend, who prevails will likely be a matter of angel Ferrari versus devil Ferrari.

Which way will Ferrari's Singapore weekend go?
Photo: Octane Photography
Ferrari should win in Singapore. It's pretty persistently had the quickest car in various circumstances recently, plus for its chief rival Mercedes this one self-admittedly is a bogey circuit - a point backed up by history.

But as we know things have had a maddening tendency to not be nearly so simple. Ferrari's had a habit of falling into mantraps - sometimes mantraps it's set itself. And this venue has more mantraps set than most - a Monaco for the new millennium with added stamina required. Two hours in intense humidity with constant acrobatic turns and near at hand walls to punish even small errors.

Still Sebastian Vettel to take pole and win seems a reasonable starting point of our expectations this weekend, and you can back him at evens to prevail on Saturday and at 11/8 to do so on Sunday. Seb's a local specialist as well and has won here four times and taken the same number of poles.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Q&A with '1994 - the Untold Story' author Ibrar Malik

You will have noticed that in recent months Talking about F1 has featured regular guest blog posts kindly provided by Ibrar Malik, previewing his forthcoming book 1994 – The Untold Story of a Tragic and Controversial F1 Season.

Ibrar has also been kind enough to take part in a Q&A with me on his forthcoming book and about the 1994 F1 year more generally. It is all outlined below and I'm sure you'll agree that his answers are fascinating and whet the appetite for the book that is to come! 

And you can find much more detail on his book on his website at: www.1994f1.com

What was it about the 1994 season that attracted you to examine it so closely?

So much happened that year and it's unlike any other F1 season. There were driver tragedies, infighting within a sport in crisis, and accusations of cheating. All wrapped up by one of the most controversial title deciders in F1 history. I think it's fair to say even today, most F1 fans are still dumbfounded by certain mysteries from that year. Like why Benetton received no serious punishments after the Hockenheim fire, despite pleading guilty to tampering with the refuelling equipment without written authorisation. Or did Michael Schumacher use the concealed launch control that WAS found within his Benetton?

I've found whenever these issues are discussed things usually turn into a heated debate, often filled with rumours rather than facts. Also some people tend to dismiss certain information based on whether they support Ayrton Senna or Schumacher. So, perhaps the best way to unravel the various accusations is by analysing them as the 1994 season unfolded, in the kind of detail only a book allows. It will give readers all the arguments and information to sort fact from fiction themselves and unlike an internet forum, there is no chance of them getting involved in an argument in the process.

Whatever your stance regarding the 1994 events, I think everyone can agree the politics at play that year were complicated. Hence why for the last few years, I've been determined to find out the dark secrets from that fateful season, which has ultimately led to this book.

Schumacher's 1994 driver's championship would forever be perceived with suspicion. 
Photo: Willem Toet

Monday, 10 September 2018

Singapore Preview: Risk and reward

F1 in 2018 keeps changing. F1 in 2018 keeps staying the same.

Monza changed the season's picture - and conformed to it
Photo: Octane Photography
What we got in the last round at Monza was nothing like what we expected. But in its shift it conformed with the lingering theme of the year so far - that Ferrari has the quickest car in most circumstances but one way or another isn't making good on it. And Mercedes is taking advantage. After the Italian race Lewis Hamilton's points lead, against all expectations, stretched to 30. We're reaching the point that Ferrari can't afford more slip-ups.

Yet the Scuderia can go into this one in Singapore with some light breaking through its recently accumulated gloom, and not just due to its inherent pace advantage mentioned. Singapore moreover is a great place for it to get some of its lost points back on Merc pronto.

Are Amateur Racing Clubs Dying Out?

Any motorsports fan feels the urge for a challenge. Although not everyone can reach the great talents of the racing world champions, it doesn't mean you should back-out of your passion. You don't need to be helped up by a multinational enterprise or have a top tier vehicle to jump into the heat of racing.

Look for semi-professional racing clubs that offer circuits such as sprints, off-road or short ovals.

They Require Time
To become a racing driver you'll need to practice, be dedicated and invest a lot of time and effort. Like any other sports, motor racing is all about discipline and professionalism. To get the best results you need to sharpen your skills through training. If you take the time to constantly exercising and learning, you're on your way to success.

It's Not A Cheap Hobby
Although racing clubs offer the choice of renting a car to race around the circuit, you're better off owning it. Race cars are quite expensive. Even if you're planning to tune up a standard car, you'll still be dealing with some serious needed investment. If you want to become a licensed race driver you should attend an accredited racing school. However, courses don't come cheap. For a glimpse of the progress of UK's amateur car racing, check out This ranking of 2015 Car Clubs in England.

There Is No National Championship
Unlike major league racing, amateur car clubs don't organise national championships. However, you can join-in on track days or go-karting competitions, pay and play days or a combination such as Track Day Trophy events.

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Kimi Raikkonen For Vice President

Will Ferrari re-sign Kimi Raikkonen? Or will Kimi Raikkonen resign from Ferrari and Formula 1? There are tons of rumours doing the rounds last week and while we ignore them all, we wonder if Kimi Raikkonen would actually be well suited to become Vice President.

In this week's episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast, Mithila and Kunal argue over Raikkonen's possible extension, Nico Rosberg's sudden love for Lewis Hamilton, the possibility of drivers becoming title sponsors of their home Grands Prix and Force India's fourth place in the Constructors' Championship (yes, you read that right!). Tune in!

(Season 2018, Episode 30)

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

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Latest F1 history articles from me on AutoClassics

Just flagging a couple more articles written by me on F1 history that have been published on AutoClassics recent days.

By Suyk, Koen / Anefo / neg. stroken, 1945-1989, 2.24.01.
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 via Wikimedia Commons
This first one is a good 'un. Forty years ago almost to the day Team Lotus bagged the most routine of one-twos in the 1978 Dutch Grand Prix and it must have seemed the competitive order would stay that way for a while at least. But success dried up almost overnight.

I therefore spoke to Mario Andretti as well as Peter Wright - designer at the team at the time - to find out what went on. It's a fascinating tale, which you can read here.

The second one is good too - to coincide with the latest Italian Grand Prix at inimitable Monza I looked at the home team Ferrari's finest moments in its long history at the circuit, with the help of Motorsport Images's superb photography. You can check that out here.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Ocon: Hope To Retain Force India Seat

Where could Esteban Ocon race in 2019? For Formula 1 fans, this question is as intriguing as 'who could win the Drivers' Championship in 2018?' - and given how the driver silly season has panned out, let's hope that Ocon gets a suitable car that compliments his talent.

In this week's episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast, we have a special guest - Esteban Ocon himself. The Frenchman rates his performances against Sergio Perez, he answers whether he has done enough to retain his seat at Force India for 2019 and of course, would he rather race in a slower car next year or take a break from the sport?

The future of Formula 1 could definitely be Esteban Ocon (possibly in Mercedes) resuming his career-long rivalry against Charles Leclerc (possibly in Ferrari) and Max Verstappen (in Red Bull Racing). Let's remember, these three lads fought hard while karting and in the junior series they competed in. Ocon tells us how he would relish fighting them and how it would be good for Formula 1. Tune in!

(Season 2018, Episode 29) 

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

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Motor Verso F1 2018 Season Summary - Italian Grand Prix review

Photo: Octane Photography
And so the Ferrari revival is off. Or delayed at the very least. The season's nagging theme returned at Monza - that of the Scuderia dashing the opportunity presented by its fine car. While Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton were brilliant in taking advantage.

My take on a thrilling and surprising Italian Grand Prix is now added to the ever-expanding Motor Verso F1 season summary. And as ever it also includes stunning Pirelli photography and the best F1 content on YouTube.

You can check out the latest incarnation 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.

Italian GP Report - Come together

After Spa last week we thought things would be different. But in its back yard the chief theme of 2018 reasserted - that Ferrari for all its stunning speed isn't beginning to make good on it where it really matters. That something insists on coming along to trip it up. Sometimes of its own doing.

Lewis Hamilton against all expectations
defeated Ferrari to win
Photo: Octane Photography
Matters in the Italian Grand Prix weekend started just as expected though. Continuing the Spa pattern Ferrari on Monza's rapid circuit had a clear pace advantage, including on its title foe targets Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton. After qualifying the grid's front row was all red. But a day later things were scarcely recognisable. Hamilton had won and left Ferrari's homeland with an extended 30 point lead in the championship table over the Scuderia's Sebastian Vettel.

And with the talk of big themes this shift was not down to just one thing. Rather a lot of - often ostensibly minor - things came together. Lenin reminded us that everything is connected to everything else. It's especially the case in F1.

Mighty oaks from little acorns grow. The acorns that grew into the mighty oak of Ferrari's defeat were planted the day before the race, in that very same qualifying session. There was one fly in Vettel's Saturday ointment, that his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen took pole position ahead of him. The Finn was aided by that he ran behind Vettel on track and thus got the benefit of his slipstream on Monza's many lengthy straights. Vettel meanwhile had been fed out by his team a little late and therefore didn't really benefit from the car ahead in the same way (Hamilton's, as it happened).

Monday, 3 September 2018

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Fernando Alonso Can't Be F1's Ambassador

Formula 1 hopes that Fernando Alonso will be the sport's ambassador despite choosing to race elsewhere in 2019. Well, we're certain Alonso (also Briatore?) wouldn't mind the 'ambassadorship' if it comes with some money and maybe a guarantee of a faster car in the future? Either way, why Formula 1 would ask Alonso to be their ambassador baffles us. The double World Champion has only had negative things to say about the sport for the last many years.

In this week's episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast, we wonder how many drivers would McLaren and Red Bull Racing have approached to fill their cockpits for 2019; any guesses? We actually did some math on the show. A manufacturer-customer relationship (a la Ferrari-Haas) might actually be good for the sport - it should reduce the performance gaps we see currently. And finally, how soon before Formula 1 tries the heads-up display visor that Super Formula tested a days ago? Tune in!

(Season 2018, Episode 28)

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

Saturday, 1 September 2018

Mansell’s 1994 Comeback, by Ibrar Malik

Nigel Mansell won the 1992 F1 world championship comfortably before announcing his shocking switch to American Indycar racing for the following year. He had become fed up with protracted contract renewal negotiations so departed his beloved Williams and F1 on sour terms. Given these circumstances, it makes Mansell's return to both for 1994 all the more remarkable.

Mansell (pictured in 1994) won the Indy Car title during his rookie year in 1993. It was an astonishing achievement. 

The upcoming book provides more detail, but essentially Nigel's return to F1 in 1994 was a direct result of Senna's tragic accident. Because F1 was left without any world champions on the grid and Schumacher was dominating races, Bernie Ecclestone needed to bring some positive news to a sport in crisis. F1's commercial supremo, therefore, engineered Mansell's return believing it would give Schumacher a worthy rival whilst also increasing television ratings.