Friday 30 November 2018

New Motorsport Week article: Ricciardo to Renault, a road to redemption or regret?

Photo: Octane Photography
It's like the previously-stale F1 drivers' market is making up for lost time. When the 2019 season gets underway next March there'll be no shortage of unfamiliar faces, nor of familiar faces in unfamiliar places. But even so one move trumped them all for shock value.

In my latest for Motorsport Week I look into the probability of success of Daniel Ricciardo to Renault - will it be a road to redemption or regret? With, you may be glad to hear, an added absence of appealing alliteration...

You can check out the fruits of my investigating here:

Monday 26 November 2018

Motor Verso F1 2018 Season Summary - Abu Dhabi Grand Prix review

Photo: Octane Photography
In the 2018 F1 season closer Lewis Hamilton was so kind as to provide a summary. His latest win of 11 in his fifth world championship year contained a few of the themes that ran through the campaign as a whole. Not least Hamilton himself remaining, one way or another, in the box seat.

My take on the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix finale is added to the Motor Verso F1 season summary. As ever it's illustrated with great Pirelli photography and my selection of the best of YouTube content.

You can check out the fully formed summary via this link:

Sunday 25 November 2018

Abu Dhabi GP Report - The year in microcosm

If they say to start as you mean to go on, what do they say about finishing?

Lewis Hamilton led from the off and always was in command
Photo: Octane Photography
Lewis Hamilton won the season-closing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from pole, his 11th victory of his latest championship season. And as Martin Brundle noted, it's not clear if he broke sweat in so doing.

There was the odd adventure along the way; the odd cause for doubt. But the running thread through all of the Yas Marina race was that Hamilton's Mercedes was well in the best place. It was 2018 in microcosm.

The main detour was a result of Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari stopping on lap 7 with no power on the pit straight. The Virtual Safety Car was enacted and Hamilton alone among the leaders took advantage of the lower time-loss by making his sole pitstop. He emerged in fifth, planning to run to the end and just 8.8 seconds off the new leader, his stable-mate Valtteri Bottas. Hamilton sounded sceptical at times but it did work out, as when others ahead pitted he had a net lead of something in the order of 10s. The only matter then was whether his tyres could go to the end.

Wednesday 21 November 2018

Abu Dhabi GP Betting Preview - Looking to the future

Abu Dhabi races are usually about two men. Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel have won at this futuristic-looking venue three times apiece and revel in the track's challenges. The bookies agree and give the pair the shortest odds for pole and win - with Vettel the favourite ahead of Hamilton.

Local specialist Lewis Hamilton seems to
offer the best betting value
Photo: Octane Photography
But given Vettel's recent erratic form Hamilton may be the better bet, plus the evidence of Brazil last time out is that Hamilton is not letting up with the championship won. In addition Ferrari has never won here, and Seb's not won in Abu Dhabi since his Red Bull days in 2013.

You can back Hamilton to be fastest qualifier at 6/4 and to win at 11/4. The main cause for concern herein - and which may explain Vettel's shorter odds - is that it remains to be seen if Hamilton needs to take a grid penalty after his engine problems in Brazil.

This may though present an opportunity, as if Hamilton is blasting through the pack on race day with a fresh engine, strategic freedom and fresh tyres (due to not giving qualifying full beans) then the 3/1 for him to get the race's fastest lap becomes an even better bet than it would have been anyway.

Monday 19 November 2018

Abu Dhabi Preview - The sun goes down

So the sun goes down on another F1 campaign. And providing the visual metaphor, the season-closing round is the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. F1's only day-to-night event.

In an appropriate place, the sun goes
down on another F1 season
Photo: Octane Photography
The sunset on this 2018 season has been slow, and we enter this finale with remarkably little at stake. Both titles are decided of course, but even further down the tables there is meagre potential for change at the last.

Underlining the point the most conspicuous bone of contention at the Yas Marina track this weekend is that Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen are separated by three points in the 'battle' for fourth in the drivers' standings. Either theoretically could leapfrog Kimi Raikkonen for third as well - Bottas is 14 points behind and Verstappen 17 - though that outcome will likely require a no-score for Raikkonen.

Even in the all-important constructors' order - all-important as that's what they base the money on - just about all teams look well ensconced in their places. The most likely shift is that a good weekend for Sauber - and it looked quick in Brazil - combined with a meagre one for Force India may allow the Swiss team to vault over the six-point gap between them. Conversely a sixth and seventh place for Force India combined with no McLaren points will get Force India up a place.

Saturday 17 November 2018

New Motorsport Week article: Progress not panic – paying homage to five-times constructors’ champion Mercedes

Photo: Octane Photography
In last weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix something remarkable happened, though it wasn't dwelt on all that much. Mercedes clinched its fifth constructors' title in a row, a feat only matched ever by the crushing Ferrari squad of the noughties.

For Motorsport Week I try to address the situation by paying homage to dominant Mercedes, and delve into what makes this team extraordinary.

You can have a read via this link.

Tuesday 13 November 2018

Motor Verso F1 2018 Season Summary - Brazilian Grand Prix review

Photo: Octane Photography
The Brazilian Grand Prix just passed demonstrates the importance of not judging books by their covers. A dead rubber; another Lewis Hamilton win. Sounds tepid. But this one was hot. And hot for reasons no one anticipated.

My take on it is added to the Motor Verso F1 season summary. As ever it's also illustrated with wonderful Pirelli photography and my selection of the best Brazilian Grand Prix content from YouTube.

You can check out the nearly-final summary here:

Brazilian GP Report - More to it

Lewis Hamilton in the Brazilian Grand Prix won his 10th race of an imperious 2018 season. Ho-hum. Not even that Hamilton had never before won a Grand Prix after taping up that year's title stopped him this time. Mercedes with it sealed its latest constructors' championship. Ho and indeed hum.

Lewis Hamilton won again, but there were
many adventures along the way
Photo: Octane Photography
Not a bit of it though. The above paragraph holds only if one falls foul of the old one about judging books by their covers. This one at Interlagos was a thriller, with massive detours on the way to what appears its very standard outcome.

The source of the intrigue was unforeseen too. It wasn't because of an anticipated Ferrari challenge to Mercedes, as that didn't arrive. Despite Sebastian Vettel qualifying a smidgen off poleman Hamilton, him reckoning he'd have had top spot without a small mistake. Despite too that Vettel started on more durable tyres. The anticipated rain didn't arrive either.

No, it was a thriller because of a challenge to Mercedes that came instead - against anticipation - from Red Bull.

Red Bull challenged Mercedes. Red Bull passed Mercedes. Red Bull had this one in the palm of its hand. Until Red Bull lost it. As Red Bull hit a backmarker. And that was only the start of the consternation.

Friday 9 November 2018

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Vettel Missing A Mentor At Ferrari?

Sebastian Vettel could be missing a mentor at Ferrari. In fact, could Ferrari do better with a 'real' racer at the helm of affairs? We explain our view in this week's episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast by comparing the pressures between a Formula 1 driver and the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

Photo: Octane Photography
Also, we wonder how things could've turned out had Lewis Hamilton lost the World Championship in 2008; would Timo Glock be remembered a little less? With Formula 1 teams promoting young (or really young!) drivers in this era - has Formula 1 become a development series for drivers too? Finally, will Hamilton break his no-win-after-championship duck this weekend in Brazil? Tune in!

(Season 2018, Episode 38)

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

Here is what's in store for you this week:

0:00-3:00: That time of the year when remember Timo Glock; WHAT IF Felipe Massa would've won the Formula 1 World Championship in 2008?

3:00-6:00: Sebastian Vettel looks like he's missing a mentor at Ferrari - we explain our point

6:00-8:00: Has Formula 1 become a development series for drivers too? Also, can Ferrari seriously win the Constructors' Championship this season?

08:00-10:00: Can Lewis Hamilton attempt a switch to and win with Ferrari? Basically, do what Michael Schumacher attempted to do in his era

10:00-13:00: Haas should be disappointed if they finish 5th in 2018, agree or disagree? Can Williams survive without the Stroll money in 2019?

13:00-15:00: Should Formula 1 cars now have digital rear view mirrors? And, Lucien's 'Moments in Time' section for the upcoming Brazilian Grand Prix! 14:45

20:00-end: Lewis Hamilton is yet to win a race after winning a World Championship; can he win this weekend in Brazil?

P.S.: We won't have an episode next week; remember to tune back in the week before the 2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix!

Wednesday 7 November 2018

Brazilian GP Betting Preview - After the Lord Mayor's show

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. And so it is for Lewis Hamilton. As even in the direct aftermath of his greatest triumph so far - his fifth divers' title sealed - there is a potential negative implication. One that may interest the F1 fan looking to profit in the betting market in advance of this weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix.

Will Hamilton, his title won, miss out on race victory?
Photo: Octane Photography
As Hamilton in his F1 career has taken part in five Grands Prix after he's wrapped up that year's championship, and has not won any of them. It's led some to suggest that he's prone to taking his eye slightly off the ball at such moments. While in a more specific sense we can add that his record at the Interlagos circuit isn't all that good by his very exacting standards - he's only won here once and taken two poles.

And in exactly these circumstances 12 months ago at this very venue Hamilton in effect dashed his victory chances immediately by trashing his Mercedes on the first lap of qualifying. While the then-as-now recently-vanquished Sebastian Vettel gave himself and his recently-vanquished Ferrari team some belated succour by winning.

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Why No F1 Fan Should Hate Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton is the perfect embodiment of Liberty Media's vision for Formula 1 - embracing the show without compromising on speed. In this week's episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast, we tell you that the 2018 Formula 1 Season is proof why NO Formula 1 fan should hate Lewis Hamilton.

Photo: Octane Photography
Also, we talk about Red Bull Racing's targets for Honda and Max Verstappen in 2019, Jos-Max's chemistry, how Sebastian Vettel can reclaim his lost glory, why the Vietnam Grand Prix was probably announced ahead of its time and which current Grand Prix will Formula 1 be forced to drop to accommodate the new venues in 2020? Tune in!

(Season 2018, Episode 37)
Subscribe to the Inside Line F1 Podcast on iTunes and on audioBoom (RSS feed) for your weekly dose of Formula 1 humour

Here's what's in store for you in this week's episode:

0:00-3:00: Latest talking points from the world of Formula 1 + celebrating Lewis Hamilton’s 5th world title

3:00-6:00: Christian Horner’s double talk on Daniel Ricciardo’s talent; decoding the Jos-Max chemistry, is Max ready to be World Champion in 2019?

6:00-9:00: Could Hamilton have won the 2018 Drivers’ Championship racing for Ferrari?

9:00-12:00: Sebastian Vettel is not past his peak. No.

12:00-15:00: Does Vettel know what a podcast is? And, 25 Grands Prix by 2020?

15:00-18:00: Why Marcus Ericsson will do well in Indy Car. Is Carlos Sainz as talented as Max Verstappen and Nico Hulkenberg?

18:00-end: Which celebrity will transmit a farewell message to Fernando Alonso in Abu Dhabi? And also, this week’s ‘What Wolff Said This Week’ section

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

Monday 5 November 2018

Interlagos Preview - Where there's life...

And so, with Lewis Hamilton wrapping up his latest world title in Mexico last time out, in large part this forthcoming Brazilian Grand Prix is, in the tennis parlance, a dead rubber. But there are reasons not to write it off even so.

Anything can happen at inimitable Interlagos
By Eduardo Guarizo Pimentel - Formula 1, CC BY 2.0,
There's still intrigue at the front. Not least around our new-old crown recipient. Hamilton in five attempts has never won an F1 race after he has wrapped up that year's championship. It leads some to theorise that he takes his foot off the gas at such moments, something the man himself vehemently denies. In last year's round in this very scenario and at this very Interlagos venue he gave the case for the prosecution some evidence though by binning it on the first lap of qualifying. As a consequence he had to start the race from the pitlane.

And Hamilton can't afford to relax entirely this time, as the constructors' crown is not yet taped up for his Mercedes team. Mercedes is 55 points ahead with 86 available, so it should get the honours. But too much profligacy from him and team-mate Valtteri Bottas has the potential to throw the matter back into the melting pot. Particularly as Ferrari in the last couple of rounds has rediscovered its pace, and Mercedes has hit tyre troubles in both. Hamilton also has only ever won once here, in 2016's heavy rain.

Friday 2 November 2018

Lewis Hamilton 2018 World Champion - Not only...but also

It was just like last year. Only more so.

Photo: Octane Photography
The parallels between the 2017 and '18 drivers' title battles were uncanny. Lewis Hamilton versus Sebastian Vettel. Mercedes versus Ferrari. In the balance, with ebb and flow. That was until Singapore where Hamilton and Mercedes, against the run of play, stamped on the accelerator pedal while Vettel and Ferrari unravelled. And Hamilton won it officially two races ahead of time in Mexico. Having as good as won it a while before.

And there's another thing that's just like last year. That it almost doubtlessly is Hamilton's best of his world championships so far. That we have here an astonishingly-skilled driver at something like his peak. Only more so.

In 2018 he demonstrated many things we already knew about. His blinding speed of course, quintessentially with his scarcely-credible Singapore qualifying lap, on which the championship momentum pivoted. His unmatched skills in the wet as demonstrated in his Hockenheim win and grabbing pole in Hungary - both vital in stemming Ferrari momentum at a time when the red car was on top. His piercing aggression and immaculate judgement when wheel-to-wheel, such as on Monza's opening lap.

Thursday 1 November 2018

New Motorsport Week article: Why Ferrari ditching Fernando Alonso cost it two titles

After Lewis Hamilton clinched his latest world championship many aspects of what the achievement means were discussed.

Photo: Octane Photography
But there was one part that escaped comment mostly - that now Ferrari will have to go 12 years at least without a drivers' title.

This time it's hard to say it's to do primarily with the car's shortcomings, rather points dropped via mistakes by Sebastian Vettel have been crucial. Perhaps similar could be said of the 2017 championship too.

Then there's the guy Vettel replaced. For all that we like to say that the relentless Fernando Alonso has cost himself championships with his antics are we looking through the wrong end of the telescope? Is it not the case that Ferrari has cost itself the last two titles by chasing Alonso out the door?

In my latest Motorsport Week feature article I lay out the case. You can have a read via this link.