Month: May 2014

The Inside Line #57: Stuck in a moment (you can’t get out of)

TILI Logo PrintJobs in F1 you wouldn’t want: (a) being asked to write the absurdly flowery comments attributed to Kimi Raikkonen in Ferrari press releases, (b) being the person charged with cleaning up after Marussia’s Monaco after-party, and (c) Pete Bonnington. ‘Bono’, as he’s often (amusingly) called by many at Mercedes, is Lewis Hamilton’s race engineer, and the voice we hear on the team radio to Hamilton throughout race weekends. He also has to play school headmaster, psychiatrist and amateur optometrist if last weekend in Monte Carlo is anything to go by. It’s a gig that would leave anyone on The Edge … [1]

After Hamilton kept his composure so admirably (and unexpectedly) after he failed to finish in the first race of the year before winning the next four Grands Prix, it was the Hamilton of old at Monaco – emotional, sometimes irrational, occasionally spectacularly fast and seemingly far too wound up for his own good. Yes, there remains some doubt over the legitimacy of teammate Nico Rosberg’s “mistake” in qualifying that denied Hamilton a chance at pole [2], but the perceived injustice from the lack of action taken by the race stewards sent the Briton on a downward spiral that saw him increasingly stroppy with Bonnington over the radio, bizarrely claim he had something in his eye (but refused to talk about or it seek medical attention immediately after the race), and look like a man who had lost control. Rosberg is a bright guy and will undoubtedly be taking mental notes, and could do worse than wind up his teammate as much as possible over the final 13 Grands Prix. Given how close it’s likely to be between the two of them, every little advantage has to be taken.

A comprehensive recap of the Monaco Grand Prix features on Episode 57 of ‘The Inside Line’, while we review the life and achievements of Sir Jack Brabham in this week’s show. With Brabham having won his first Grand Prix at Monaco in 1959 and Mark Webber following in those footsteps twice in 2010 and 2012, it was great to see Daniel Ricciardo on the steps of the royal box that doubles as Monaco’s ‘podium’ on Sunday, continuing the tradition of Australians impressing at the most famous race of all. Without Brabham, there would have been no Webber, no Ricciardo, no Alan Jones … the sport’s fans in Australia have so much to thank one of our greatest sporting pioneers for. [3]

‘The Inside Line’ is on SPEED TV Australia (Foxtel/Austar channel 512) at 7pm on Wednesday May 28, and also on ESPN (Foxtel/Austar channel 508 in Australia) at 8.30pm on Thursday May 29.

—————

[1] A U2 joke written at 3.19am. Whoa.

[2] One man’s view: I saw Rosberg’s “mistake” as being one of those accidentally on purpose ones. Just very well dressed up. Still, if you can get away with it …

[3] C’mon, Channel 10. Coming on air nine minutes before the biggest F1 race of the season, and the weekend after the passing of our most famous F1 export, all so you can show yet another over-acted American police drama thingy? Not. Good. Enough. Thank goodness for the Box of Neutrals boys and their pre-race preview.

Advertisements

The Inside Line #56: Streets ahead

TILI Logo PrintThere are other races where the cars are pushed closer to their limits, and (unfortunately) other races that are worth more points. But make no mistake – the Monaco Grand Prix is THE one every Formula One driver wants to win [1]. And this year will be no different, especially for one driver who needs to dig in his heels and take a stand.

As the son of a F1 champion, Nico Rosberg grew up in the streets of the glittering Principality, his school bus taking the route through the tunnel he’ll traverse at much greater speed this weekend. This time last year, the German was the toast of Monaco after his maiden victory in the city streets, 30 years after his dad Keke stood on the famous steps of the royal box to receive his winners’ trophy. A repeat win this year, particularly after what has happened to him in the past nine weeks, would be even more gladly received.

There wasn’t much in it between Rosberg and teammate Lewis Hamilton in Barcelona last time out, but it was enough to hand the Briton the championship lead Rosberg had preserved since Australia. With this year’s championship unofficially a two-tier competition between (a) the Mercedes drivers and (b) everyone else, Rosberg has to break Hamilton’s run of four straight wins as soon as possible, or else he’ll be relying on that (unfortunate) race that’s now worth double points at the end of the season to press his claims for the title. For years, the prestige of Monaco has been proof that not all races are created equal; unfortunately, all races really aren’t equal in the brave new world of Formula One in 2014. That’s another topic for another time … [2]

A Monaco Grand Prix preview is the feature of Episode 56 of ‘The Inside Line’, while we also look at the news coming out of the year’s second pre-season test in Spain last week.

We also pause to reflect the passing of a man for whom the oft-overused term ‘legend’ is appropriate, Sir Jack Brabham. His death this week at the age of 88 brought his career into sharper focus – while I’ve had my say about Sir Jack in many places since (including here), next week’s show will examine more closely why this man is one of the Australia’s great success stories in any endeavor, and a man whose achievements remain criminally underappreciated in this country. [3]

‘The Inside Line’ is on SPEED TV Australia (Foxtel/Austar channel 512) at 7pm on Wednesday May 21, and also on ESPN (Foxtel/Austar channel 508 in Australia) at 7.30pm on Thursday May 22.

—————

[1] Personal favourite bits of any F1 season: (a) the charge up the hill on lap one at Monaco, (b) the fixed camera at the Swimming Pool as the cars slalom their way through the chicane, and (c) the hold-your-breath moment when 22 cars pile into the first corner at Monza on lap one. Other nominations welcomed.

[2] Or a rant that I may have had already.

[3] That I did more interviews for international media on Monday than local outlets is a sad state of affairs, and entirely predictable given the fixation of the Australian media for looking no further than the end of its nose or the latest local news cycle.

Spanish GP review: When four equals one

THIS STORY APPEARS IN THE MAY 14 ISSUE OF MOTORSPORT ILLUSTRATED NEWS

HamiltonSAT_SpainFor a driver who definitely ranks as one of Formula One’s most famous and is certainly seen as one of its best, Lewis Hamilton has never enjoyed much success or support in Spain. A fractious rookie season alongside Fernando Alonso at McLaren in 2007 explains the latter, but the former has never really made much sense.

On Sunday, the Briton won the Spanish Grand Prix for the first time in eight attempts, and with his fourth victory in succession, took possession of the championship lead. Even the most parochial Alonso fans sitting in the packed grandstands at the Circuit de Catalunya had to applaud his efforts, if only for the way the race-long fight with Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg bubbled to the boil in the closing laps.

From pole, Hamilton made a strong start and negotiated the longest run from the lights to the first corner of the season in first place, and the race looked his to lose for much of the 66-lap distance. But unlike the last race in Shanghai, this was no walk in the park for Hamilton, with two slow pit stops eroding his advantage to his teammate, and a strategy that had him on the harder-compound Pirelli tyre for the final 23 laps of the race. Severe graining on the left front tire hampered his efforts to pull away from Rosberg, and as the German closed, a frantic fight to the flag that punctuated the spectacular Bahrain race last month looked to be in the offing.

With Rosberg bearing down, Hamilton – after several fraught exchanges with race engineer Pete Bonnington over the radio in the latter stages – held his nerve, and it was Rosberg – on the faster, medium-compound tyre and with use of DRS to close the gap – who blinked first.

Read more: https://www.motorsportin.com/

The Inside Line #55: Back to the beginning

TILI Logo PrintIt took Lewis Hamilton eight weeks to get back to where he started, but he made it there eventually. After qualifying for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on pole, the race looked his to lose in Melbourne before an mechanical gremlin sent him into an early retirement, one he’s been trying to make up for ever since. That he’s closed down a 25-point deficit under the scoring system in place in just eight weeks is testament to his brilliance, his confidence and the shedding of what had become somewhat of a hoodoo.

After having to watch his teammate Nico Rosberg spray the victory champagne in Australia, Hamilton has responded almost perfectly – three poles and four wins in as many races as Mercedes continues to embarrass the rest of the field. Yes, he has a significant car advantage, but his teammate is in the same machinery, and team management seems committed – for now at least – to letting them fight [1]. It’s a fight that he’s right on top of after winning the Spanish Grand Prix for the first time and taking the championship lead in the process. And it’s a fight, despite Hamilton’s repeated protestations to the contrary, that he’s undoubtedly the favourite to win. [2]

A review of a Spanish Grand Prix that was slow to start but bubbled beautifully to the boil is the focus of Episode 55 of ‘The Inside Line’, while we also preview this week’s second in-season test at the Circuit de Catalunya, and continue our ‘Horse Power’ series that takes you behind the scenes at Ferrari. If only we could have got access to the post-race debrief after Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen went wheel-to-wheel in the closing stages on Sunday – just before Raikkonen was lapped (lapped!) by Hamilton … [3]

‘The Inside Line’ is on SPEED TV Australia (Foxtel/Austar channel 512) at 7pm on Wednesday May 14, and also on ESPN (Foxtel/Austar channel 508 in Australia) at 7.30pm on Thursday May 15.

—————

[1] Post-race interviews with Niki Lauda are always a highlight of any Mercedes win, if only to see how uncomfortable Ted Kravitz is with (gasp) an adult using a mild obscenity on TV.

[2] Hamilton has been great in all his wins except for the “I won but Nico was faster than me” angle. I’m not sure he’s trying to play the psychological card either against his teammate. You won, you take the plaudits. End of story.

[3] Speaking of mild obscenities, this Raikkonen interview – and the response of the interviewer – still raises a grin. He was happier then too, in the good old days when he finished on the lead lap …

The Inside Line #54: Going hard, going home

TILI Logo PrintYou learn a lot about someone when they’re winning – and you learn even more about them when they’re not. That old saying crossed my mind this week when it dawned on me that at this Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix, it would have been 364 days since Fernando Alonso last won a Formula One race, the longest drought of his career since the “lost” Renault year of 2009 when he was biding his time before heading to Ferrari.

That Alonso’s final year of his second stint at Renault proved fruitless was of little surprise; what has been stunning is just how long it has been between drinks for the Prancing Horse. The regulatory revolution ahead of the 2014 season gave the two teams that produce their own engines and chassis in-house a distinct advantage, but Ferrari has scored just one podium in the first four races as Mercedes has decimated the opposition in a way that even Red Bull couldn’t manage over the past four seasons. Fortunately for Ferrari, if there’s any track where Alonso can make a difference, it’s the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona.

Alonso always seems to produce some magic at home – witness his starts of the Spanish Grand Prix in 2011, 2012 and 2013 [1] – and there’s nothing more certain than the Spaniard transcending the performance of his car this Sunday. While teammate Kimi Raikkonen remains almost anonymous in this year’s world championship and has had to fend off questions about his lack of motivation after just four races back at the sport’s most famous team, Alonso has scrapped for what he can, and has somehow elevated himself to third in the world championship. The Spanish Grand Prix is typically never the most spectacular of any Formula One season – the familiarity of the drivers and teams with the oft-used testing venue puts paid to that – but Alonso’s charge will be as worth watching as ever.

A comprehensive Spanish GP preview through the eyes of Alonso features on Episode 54 of ‘The Inside Line’, while we also take some time out this week to reveal an interesting insight into Sebastian Vettel’s mindset [2]. And for followers of all things Ayrton Senna, we look at the commemorative day at Imola last week, where the likes of Alonso, Raikkonen and Senna’s former teammate Gerhard Berger paid their respects.

Catch ‘The Inside Line’ on SPEED TV Australia (Foxtel/Austar channel 512) at 7pm on Wednesday May 7, and also on ESPN (Foxtel/Austar channel 508 in Australia) on Thursday May 8 [3].

—————

[1] Quick, watch these before someone very important demands they get taken down …

[2] Sadly, we learn nothing about said mindset when his teammate is faster than him. Well, not that we didn’t know already.

[3] Props to ESPN for their TV ad promoting the show. Which we didn’t know about, but hey, we’ll take it …