Archive: Ross Brawn

In my chats about Formula 1 with more casual fans, or perhaps those who just hear headlines in the news about F1, I have noticed a worrying trend. There are many people out there who simply do not buy the idea that Brawn have become so dominant on merit. There are a number of reasons.

First of all, there is no doubt that this is an unusual situation, which raises suspicions among many. This is, after all, a team that did not exist a few weeks before the season began. With hardly any meaningful testing, they hit the ground running in Australia and have been dominant ever since. Never has a new team been so successful so quickly.

Of course, those who have studied the situation know that there are good reasons for this. For starters, the car was always going to be mighty. It is the first car which Ross Brawn — one of the smartest men in the business — has overseen the development of. That Ross Brawn, a man who has been responsible for so many World Championships in the past fifteen years, should be able to put together a winning car should not be such a surprise.

The Brawn team is helped by the fact that the team knows how to win races. Ross Brawn himself has the confidence, experience, expertise and management skills to turn an average team into a great one. He was a pivotal influence in the dominance of Michael Schumacher throughout his entire career. You can add Ferrari’s dominance in the late 1990s and early this decade to Ross Brawn’s CV.

The old Honda team and Jenson Button also won a race, which must count for something. It has been noted that often the first race is the most difficult one to win, so Button’s win in 2006 — though some saw it as a bit of a fluke — must count for something, despite the two year long slump the team took afterwards. This is especially the case when you consider Toyota, who seemingly did their best to throw away victory in Bahrain. That was a scenario which some saw as the jitters of a team not used to winning.

There is also the fact that this car was basically developed with Honda’s resources. Honda gave up on the 2008 season pretty much straight away, allowing them to focus fully on 2009 while others had to split their development between two radically different cars.

The fact that Honda have pulled out has also given Brawn the ability to run with Mercedes engines. There seems to be little doubt now that Mercedes has the strongest engine in F1.

Many casual observers do not seem to be aware of these factors surrounding Honda’s exit. It rather underlines just what a mess the Honda management made of F1 by letting this massive PR opportunity slip. Not only that, but Honda continues to pay Brawn for the privilege of not entering F1. Their customers, including Force India who used to run Ferrari engines, have been effusive about the Stuttgart company’s lump.

Brawn have also probably been helped by the fact that this year’s World Championship is being run to radically different technical regulations to last year. The cards were thrown in the air by Max Mosley, and Brawn have ended up with all the aces in their hand. You could argue that it was engineering excellence rather than luck that has placed Brawn in this position. But ask Max Mosley’s “man in the pub”, and he thinks it’s all too fishy.

This hasn’t been helped by the fuss that was made over the diffusers earlier this season. In my conversations with more casual fans, I have been left with the distinct impression that there are many out there who believe that the F1 community is also sceptical of Brawn’s success and that there is a full-blown investigation into whether Brawn are cheating. This nasty impression could have been avoided had the FIA simply declared that the diffuser was fully legal before the season started, but petty political interests yet again got in the way of common sense.

I wasn’t sure if I was the only one who was encountering these sceptical views about Brawn’s success. But speaking to other F1 fans, it seems as though the public at large is suspicious of the emergence of Brawn and Jenson Button. I heard something similar on last week’s Formula 1 Blog.com podcast. I have even caught myself being sceptical when I sought to explain just what it was that made Brawn so superior this season.

I think it’s a shame that people should find it so difficult to come to terms with Brawn’s success. There is no real suspicion that Brawn have cheated their way to the top. The car is a beauty, and the real consensus among the F1 community is that engineering excellence has brought Brawn where it is.

What does this situation tell us? Perhaps that the FIA should quit meddling with the rules all the time and bring about stability in the regulations. That would remove much of the doubt that a team that climbs its way to the top does so on merit.

Perhaps it also says that a situation where the sport’s grandees are neutered means that people see a victory by a small team as less legitimate. People would probably believe if Brawn were fighting with the likes of Ferrari and McLaren rather than Red Bull.

It doesn’t bode well for Max Mosley’s future vision for F1, where Ferrari may not exist at all, in favour of smaller teams. Max Mosley’s friend, the man in the pub, wants to see the historic names battling for wins.

Personally, I find that sad. Privateer teams are every bit as important to the history of F1 as names like Ferrari. You only really have to go back fifteen years to see a period where practically every car was entered by a privateer, and Championship after Championship was won by a Williams or a Benetton or a (pre-Mercedes) McLaren.

But the public at large has become used to an F1 dominated by manufacturers. The sport faces a difficult transitional period if the public is supposed to take Max Mosley’s new F1 seriously.

I always find it such a shame that the most famous race on the Formula 1 calendar is also often one of the most boring. This is the nature of the twisty streets of Monte Carlo, where overtaking is a rarity. It is the place where people say, “If they thought of holding the first race today, they’d laugh at you.” You sense that they have been saying that ever since the second race was held in 1930.

Still, nothing beats the spectacle of watching beautiful grand prix machines charge their way through this picturesque but intimidating circuit. It makes for a great practice or qualifying session, albeit often not a great race.

A Monaco with rain is always great fun. But it was bone dry last weekend which meant that we had to make do with a procession. Not only that, but the magic dust is fast fading away from the fairytale Brawn story and for the sake of the championship we must all hope that a major contender emerges.

Looking first at Brawn though, far from losing their advantage, they only seem to be increasing it. The cars gained a reputation for their sluggish starts after the first few races. But Rubens Barrichello got the jump on Kimi Räikkönen, despite the Ferrari being equipped with kers.

From then on, Brawn were never going to face any real difficulties. Jenson Button’s victory was further eased by the fact that Barrichello (accidentally, but usefully for Button) held up the Ferraris in 3rd and 4th due to his fading super-soft tyres.

Jenson Button was superb. Once again, from absolutely nowhere he pulled an excellent qualifying lap out of the top drawer. I confess that I thought Räikkönen had it in the bag. Button’s lap certainly confused Barrichello.

Hearing the things that Ross Brawn has to say about Jenson Button, it seems as though he is becoming an absolutely top-notch driver in front of our eyes. Stepping up to the plate, the Brit is clearly applying himself far more than he has ever done before. He says he has become “a right boring bastard“, but that is a small price to pay to become the World Champion.

For years, the potential he showed in his first year back in 2000 was not realised. In his tenth year at motorsport’s top level, we are seeing what was merely a good driver become a true great. What a pleasure to watch!

Credit, as always, must also go to the Brawn team and Mercedes. They made history at the Monaco Grand Prix, as it was the first time the same engine had won three races. An amazing statistic.

But who can we turn to in the search for a rival to this stunning team? At the start of the season it looked like it might have been Red Bull. Their Monaco form left a lot to be desired though. Their new diffuser showed little benefit in its first race, though in fairness you wouldn’t expect the new part to be all that advantageous at Monaco.

But the Red Bulls generally lacked the pace required if they want to challenge Brawn at the front. Sebastian Vettel qualified a disappointing 4th on a very low fuel level, and his first stint during the race was nothing short of a disaster. The super-soft tyres were wearing out too quickly in the first part of the race, and for some reason Vettel seemed to struggle in particular, at one point losing a massive 4.5s to Button in just one lap.

In the attempt to make up for lost time, Vettel binned it early on in his second stint. The performance rounds off a hat-trick of highly disappointing races for the hotly-tipped youngster. Vettel remains 3rd in the Championship, but with less than half the number of points that Button has accumulated.

It was again left to Mark Webber to salvage something from the race, finishing 5th. The Circuit de Monaco is a unique circuit, so this could have been a one-off for Red Bull. Surely they can’t rely on wet races to grab all their best results?

If they are not careful, the Prancing Horse will gallop past the Red Bull in the Championship. Ferrari’s performance in Monaco was very strong. The car was quick, the drivers seemed confident (with the exception of a ragged Massa during qualifying) and the reliability issues that have dogged the car were nowhere to be found. Stefano Domenicali was beaming after the race, and they must be confident that they can now rise to the challenge.

You cannot have a more contrasting fortune than that of Toyota. After snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in Bahrain, a mere two races later in Monaco they turned up with arguably the slowest car. Such radical changes in fortune do happen when the grid is as tight as it has been for the past couple of years, but John Howett will want to find the cause of the new problem if he wants the team to stay in contention.

It is quite a similar story with BMW. I can scarcely believe how bad their season is turning out to be. The only saving grace was that Toyota were even slower. BMW ran with a special message on the car marking the Mini’s 50th birthday. But their performance was no way to celebrate it, and the only time TV viewers got a good glimpse of the message was when Kubica’s sick car was unceremoniously being wheeled into the garage.

I am reluctant to say that BMW need to return to the drawing board. They turned up in Spain with practically a new car, and if anything it has made the situation worse. What a disaster from the team that sacrificed the 2008 Championship campaign in order to focus on this year.

Finally, congratulations to Giancarlo Fisichella for finishing in 9th place. I am no fan, but his performance in Monaco was stellar. For once, his experience shone through. It is particularly notable in the light of Adrian Sutil’s inability to repeat last year’s charge to the points paying positions.

It’s sad to say, but it’s true. The Spanish Grand Prix is now one of the most important events on the calendar since the emergence of Fernando Alonso. But the circuit that hosts it simply does not produce a good F1 race. I can’t remember the last time there was an exciting Spanish Grand Prix, and 2009 won’t exactly stick in the memory for long either. But while the on-track action left something to be desired, there were still a few interesting aspects of the grand prix, and there are a few talking points to be considered.

First of all there is the controversy surrounding the strategy of the two Brawn cars. According to Ross Brawn, Rubens Barrichello’s three-stop strategy was the optimal one. But the driver just couldn’t put in the laps. It’s strange because one of the things that leapt out at me while watching the live timing during the race was the fact that at one point he was lapping around a second faster than anyone else on the circuit.

Jenson Button was always going to be favourite for the win since he grabbed pole position in spectacular fashion on Saturday. But that all changed when Barrichello had an amazing start, and passed his team mate on the outside going into turn 1. Barrichello’s race unravelled during his third stint though, and it became clear that the strategy just wasn’t working for him. I wonder why it was expected to. No-one else opted for a three-stop strategy apart from Kazuki Nakajima way back in 13th place.

There is an excellent analysis of the Brawns’ strategy over at F1 Fanatic.

Putting that aside, you have to applaud Jenson Button for putting in the good lap times when it counted. Brawn were dominant in this race, and this circuit was always expected to suit their car. I sense that Brawn’s advantage will not be so large in Monaco, where I feel Red Bull will have the edge. It is certainly a circuit that Red Bull have tended to do well at in the past.

As for this race, the Red Bull team must have mixed emotions. Mark Webber pulled off the surprise of the race by managing to climb to third largely through pitstop strategy. In the end he was very close to Barrichello at the finish line, so he did a great job.

Sebastian Vettel was more disappointing. For the second race in a row, Vettel’s race has been ruined by being stuck behind a slower car. In Bahrain it was Hamilton, but just for the first stint. His luck worsened further in Spain when he was stuck behind Massa. It transpired that both drivers had identical strategies, so Vettel had no chance to “overtake him in the pitlane”.

Does the fact that this has happened two races in a row raise a question mark over Vettel’s abilities? I certainly find it disappointing that Vettel has been unable to overtake these drivers for two races in a row. It is true that both of these cars were kers-equipped, making it particularly difficult to overtake. But Button managed it in Bahrain. Perhaps Vettel needs to work on this aspect of his racing, and certainly he could do with starting a bit better because in both cases he qualified ahead only to get “kersed” (as Anthony Davidson put it during this weekend’s Chequered Flag podcast) at the start.

It must have been all the more bitter for Sebastian Vettel when it ended up that he was being held up for nothing. Felipe Massa’s fuel rig was seemingly faulty, and he didn’t get enough fuel in his car. The Brazilian had nothing to do but lift off and wait to be overtaken first be Vettel and then by Alonso.

At least Massa was running well in 3rd or 4th for the majority of the race. Räikkönen, hindered by his poor decision to stay in the garage at the end of Q1, never made much progress through the midfield and eventually had to retire with a hydraulics problem. Yet more reliability woes for the Scuderia. I find it difficult to imagine how Ferrari’s season can get worse in any more ways.

Congratulations to Fernando Alonso for driving a good home race and finishing 5th. His fans will be hoping that this is a sign of more to come from the Renault package, and I have no doubt that the team will be able to develop that car well, just as they did last season.

Toyota, who came close to winning in Bahrain, seemed well off the pace in Spain. Jarno Trulli wasn’t helped by his awful start, which left him in the midfield cluster which resulted in him going onto the grass and starting a collision that ended the race of four cars. Timo Glock also got bogged down at the start and never looked close to being that high up the order again.

BMW have improved a little, but not enough. Their car now looks radically different to the one that finished last in Bahrain. Two points for Nick Heidfeld is undoubtedly an improvement. But increasingly BMW’s decision to divert their focus from 2008 seems like the wrong one. Robert Kubica remains pointless.

It’s a similar story for Williams. Although we have become accustomed to seeing them stuck in the lower midfield over the past few years, they appeared to promise a lot during pre-season testing. Nico Rosberg must be disappointed to only be scoring a point in what was actually a pretty good race for him.

McLaren were expected to do badly here, and so it proved to be. Lewis Hamilton finished in 9th. That is not good. For the first few races, Hamilton impressed me with his ability to squeeze good results out of what is undoubtedly a poor car, including a fabulous fourth in Bahrain. He was unable to do that in Spain, and seemed pretty tetchy in the post-race interviews. Heikki Kovalainen retired with gearbox issues. Another one to add to McLaren’s reliability problems, but at least their list is not as long as Ferrari’s.

So another race passes, and Brawn look more dominant than they have done since Australia. But as I say, I have a feeling that Monaco will be a rather different matter, and I look forward to seeing how the teams perform there.

I truly feel deeply sorry for anyone who follows / followed the Honda F1 team. The team has been a walking joke for years. The events of the past few months have shown that Honda can’t even disappear from F1 without making a total hash-job of it.

It wasn’t always like this. Of course, the BAR team was always a bit of a loony show. Expertly (ahem!) led by a ski instructor, the team was a shambles. They couldn’t even get their livery done correctly.

But things took an upswing towards the middle of this decade. David Richards hauled the team up the grid and in 2004 BAR’s performances were consistent enough to earn it 2nd place in the Constructors’ Championship on merit. Then David Richards left.

He was replaced with Nick Fry, a smirking, over-confident fool who seemingly couldn’t manage his way out of a paper bag. At round 4 of the 2005 Formula 1 Championship, the team was caught out when an illegal second fuel tank was discovered. After that point, the team’s performance plummeted for some reason.

Since then, Honda have bought the team outright. You would have thought that would be a good thing. Oh no. Those clever people decided to bring in a motorbike designer, Shuhei Nakamoto, with minimal experience with designing cars, as technical director. He replaced the perfectly competent Geoff Willis, who now works at Red Bull Racing. After Nakamoto’s disastrous design was unveiled, Honda spent two years in P-nowhere. Can’t think why.

2009 was supposed to be better than this. They had brought in Ross Brawn specifically to make 2009 better than this. This was going to be Honda’s big comeback year! We could see what the man who masterminded every single one of Michael Schumacher’s World Championships could do. Then Honda pulled the plug on the entire F1 project mere months before lift off.

Now, fair enough. Honda can’t exactly help economic circumstances and if they need to make cutbacks (even just for cosmetic reasons) then that is just the reality they face. But have they managed to do it in a vaguely dignified way? Of course not. This is the Honda F1 team. They make a botch job of everything.

If anyone can make head or tail of all the contradictory news stories about Honda that have emerged over the past week or so, could you please explain all because I am at a complete loss. The deadline of the end of January has long been forgotten about. The management buyout was supposed to have been done and dusted by now.

Now, having seen off all of the other potential buyers with all the talk of a management buyout, something seems to have gone badly wrong. Rumour after rumour has emerged over the past week or so, and it seems as though the Honda team don’t have a clue what they are doing.

A week or so ago I read that, despite the fact that things had gone quiet on the Honda front, things were looking up for the team. Since then, there has been an explosion of peculiar rumours that suggests that all is not well.

First of all, it was rumoured that Bruno Senna had signed for the team, that Honda would continue to supply limited funding and that Bernie Ecclestone would provide further financial backing. But it turned out that Bernie can’t supply funding to Honda, even if he wanted to.

Then we were told that Honda had secured backing for the first four races of the season, mostly as a result of funds raised from Petrobras via Bruno Senna. But the four races thing sounded ominously similar to Super Aguri’s 2008 season.

Petrobras poured cold water on the suggestions pretty quickly, pointing out that not only are they not interested in Honda, but they don’t do driver sponsorships either. So the rumours were a load of hogwash all along.

But all was not lost!, we were told. Honda were in talks with a major company that could provide solid backing and had a reputable brand that was known worldwide. James Allen revealed that the company could be Virgin. Grandprix.com outlined why a deal with Virgin could make sense, because of the links between Richard Branson, Adrian Reynard and the Honda F1 team.

But then Pitpass phoned up Virgin, whose Brand Development and Corporate Affairs Director, Will Whitehorn, was very negative about the idea. And that it was Honda who approached Virgin, not the other way round.

Now Reuters have reported that the deal is possibly on. The BBC have since reported that a Honda spokesperson has now confirmed that talks with Virgin are under way.

In out, in out, shake it all about. Part of me wonders if Honda are deliberately spreading these rumours just to try and generate some interest in the team. To be scrabbling around like this with mere weeks until the beginning of the season is not good.

Then there are the engines. Soon after Honda announced their withdrawal, Ross Brawn practically said that an engine deal with Ferrari was a given, which was news to the Scuderia. Now apparently only Mercedes are interested, and that is only if they can be guaranteed that Honda have “bulletproof” backing. Which Honda clearly do not have.

Even if they do get it together by the start of the season, Honda’s prospects for the 2009 season are utterly doomed. Even if the car is fundamentally good, the late change of engine supplier is bound to result in reliability problems, as pointed out by James Allen. Honda will also arrive in Melbourne having had very little testing.

It is such a shame. 2009 was supposed to be Honda’s comeback year. They had literally given up on 2008 so that they could focus on 2009, and I was genuinely excited to see what they could come up with. Unfortunately, if there is one thing you can rely on in F1, it is that Nick Fry and his merry men are 100% guaranteed to cock it up. What a shame.

See also F1 Wolf’s Honda rumours summary post

Even though most of the focus tends to be on the Drivers’ Championship, the Constructors’ Championship is the prize that reflects a team effort. Ferrari are the sort of team that, if it misses out on the Drivers’ Championship, it will pick up the Constructors’.

The last time McLaren won the drivers’ Championship, with Mika Häkkinen, the Scuderia scooped up the Constructors’ prize. That was in 1999, and it was a victory that signified a team very much on the rise. This year, it reflects a team that refuses to go off the boil, even though they threatened to do so.

Let us not forget the massive changes that have been made in the Ferrari team over the past few years. Michael Schumacher, the most successful driver of all time, retired. Ross Brawn took a sabbatical and re-emerged at Honda. Rory Byrne took a back seat. Now Jean Todt has left. The axis of Schumacher is no more.

This was Stefano Domenicali’s first year in charge of the team. He had a baptism of fire in Australia, an unmitigated disaster with both drivers suffering from some kind of engine failure. Even though that proved to be a blip rather than the norm, it was by no means a one-off. The team that propelled Michael Schumacher to five World Championships is no longer the slick operation it was a few years ago. We have caught glimpses of the Italians’ calamitous ways once again.

In addition to the Australian disaster, there was a Singapore snafu. Before Kimi Räikkönen crashed out, Felipe Massa left the pitlane with his fuel hose still completely attached, the traffic lights having turned green. The controversial traffic lights system also caused Felipe Massa bother in Valencia, when he was dangerously released straight into the path of Adrian Sutil. Then, the team was simply slapped on the wrist by the FIA. In Singapore, though, it completely ruined Massa’s race.

Ferrari say they will bring back the traffic lights system for next season, adamant that it saves them enough time to justify the risk of complete foul-up. But if it saves them a couple of tenths, is that worth the occassional loss of ten points? Given how close the championship ended up being, that traffic lights system transpired to be a very expensive mistake for Ferrari.

The Scuderia also often found itself completely unable to answer the McLaren challenge. Hamilton was unstoppable in Silverstone while the Ferraris were spinning like tops in the midfield. Similarly in Hockenheim, Hamilton managed to make Felipe Massa look like a small child. A final sub-par performance came in China, though at least that time round they still finished 2nd and 3rd, albeit a long way behind Hamilton.

There were also a few alarming reliability problems. Ferrari continued to (legally) develop their engines through the engine freeze, though this was at the expense of reliability as two Ferrari engines went pop in two successive races, in Valencia and the Hungaroring. Perhaps more startling was the loose exhaust that ruined Kimi Räikkönen’s race in France — and that was when the rot began to set in in the Finn’s season.

A question mark also remains over the ability of their two drivers. Massa is clearly competent as I outlined in my previous post, but he is no Schumacher as a number of errors, particularly at the start of the season, demonstrate. And Räikkönen’s slump into near-obscurity remains a mystery to all observers. Meanwhile, four arguably better drivers — Hamilton, Alonso, Kubica and Vettel — are all weapons in their main rivals’ armoury. Ferrari are retaining their pair until at least 2010, and you have to wonder if that is the right decision.

All-in-all, then, Ferrari have had an up and down season. They have had some wonderful highlights, and also some incredibly low troughs. But almost all teams have had a poor season for one reason or another. Certainly their main rivals, McLaren, cannot exit this season without taking a particular look at their strategy or the performance of their second driver Heikki Kovalainen.

As such, even though I cannot stand the Ferrari team, I have to concede that they have done a great job this year. They have had eight wins to McLaren’s six. And both of their drivers were regularly in contention for good results unlike McLaren. So congratulations to the Scuderia. I just hope they don’t win too often. ;)

The perception that the FIA is heavily biased in favour of Ferrari was already a current talking point even before the stewards made their decision on Lewis Hamilton yesterday.

In the preview show for qualifying, ITV ran a piece about Felipe Massa’s unsafe release from a pitstop in Valencia. In that instance he was let off the hook and instead of being penalised he was fined — an option that technically wasn’t open, though the stewards took it anyway.

ITV’s piece included an interview with Ross Brawn. Brawn now works for Honda but is closely associated with Ferrari, having played a pivotal role in all of Michael Schumacher’s championships with Ferrari. Brawn went onto ITV to deny that Ferrari get any special treatment from the FIA. However, he did say a little bit more than that. I have watched the interview again and reading between the lines of what Ross Brawn says I find it very interesting.

Having been at Ferrari and know first hand what goes on, people do have misconceptions about what does go on and that leads to a lot of speculation.

Ferrari do not get special treatment from the FIA. Ferrari work diligently with all the systems, they work with the FIA to try and improve things for the future. They have a good rapport with the FIA and they try and find solutions with the FIA. The fact they don’t come out and criticise the FIA doesn’t mean that Ferrari get special treatment.

Ross Brawn wasn’t asked about the way Ferrari works with the FIA. He brought that up himself. Once he outlined how cosy the relationship between Ferrari and the FIA is, he then says, “that doesn’t mean that Ferrari get special treatment.” So why did he bring it up?

I think what Ross Brawn was really saying was that Ferrari do not get special treatment. It’s just that the other teams upset the FIA — and for that reason these teams are more likely to be punished in a borderline call. Robert McKay joked in the liveblog as Ross Brawn’s interview as being broadcast, “Ferrari don’t get special treatment, everyone else just gets unfavourable treatment ;-) “. Funnily enough, I think that is exactly what Ross Brawn was saying.

Ross Brawn knows all about how important it is to keep your nose clean with the FIA. When he worked at Benetton in 1994, the team was given a myriad of punishments throughout the season. In much the same way that people today talk of an FIA vendetta against McLaren, there was a widespread perception that the FIA had a vendetta against Benetton.

It cannot have been a coincidence that early on in the year Benetton team principal Flavio Briatore had written an open letter to Max Mosley that was none too complementary about his ability to govern the sport of Formula 1. Max Mosley hit back by punishing Benetton heavily throughout the season. (It is sad that it works like this, but that is the way Max Mosley is. It is just another in the long list of reasons why he is unfit to be the president of the FIA.)

Ross Brawn must have learnt this and realised that the best way to avoid being penalised is to be nice to Max Mosley. Politically, Ferrari have been much more favourable towards the FIA than most other teams. For instance, they were the first team to break away from the GPWC (the predecessor to the GPMA) and were the first to sign the new Concorde Agreement in 2005.

The combination of this approach with the supposed “romance” and “tradition” of Ferrari that is supposed to be so important to Formula 1 meant that inevitably Ferrari would be looked upon more favourably by the FIA. That Ross Brawn thinks this is only confirmed to me by his comments to ITV.

You could argue that it is just common sense — if you want to be rewarded by the teacher, you have to be prepared to be the teacher’s pet. However, the Ferrari view of the role of a team is one which is politically neutered. This is dangerous because it puts too much power in the hands of too few and gives the teams — the people who really know what’s what — little say on what is good for future of motor sport.

As we know all too often from the events of the past decade or so, Ferrari do not care one jot about what’s good for motor sport. They only care about winning. And if they can’t win on the racetrack, they win by cosying up to the authorities.

Anyone who has known me for long will know that I am no fan of Lewis Hamilton. But I really have to hand it to him for his performance at Silverstone yesterday. It was an absolute masterclass. People joke about how Hamilton describes every single win as his “best ever”. Yet this time around he is probably right.

Hamilton had just had the worst two races of his career. His performances in Canada and France were error-strewn and exhibited the worst of his most obvious trait, his impatience. The media was beginning to round on him, and although you could argue that the criticism was fair, there is no doubt that Hamilton was totally rattled about the whole thing.

It was worrying when it seemed as though he was beginning to pick fights with the media. If you start a fight with the media, especially in Britain, you simply don’t win. Combine this with rumours that the Hamilton clan does not get on with McLaren boss Ron Dennis or the team’s big-name PR man Matt Bishop and it was beginning to look as though Hamilton’s career was on the verge of coming down in flames.

As I have said before, Hamilton is great enough when the pressure is not on. But when it really matters he looks like a nervous wreck. So I didn’t see how — in this situation, following a terrible June, at his home grand prix — he was going to perform well. His dire qualifying performance only added to that sense.

Yet come race day it all came good for him. Somehow he put behind him all the troubles that had been building up. From 4th on the grid, he capitalised on poor starts from the cars ahead of him and was challenging his team mate for the lead by turn 1, the famous Copse corner. Indeed, Hamilton was so aggressive that he tapped Kovalainen, and both cars almost lost control.

That tap could easily have been just the latest Hamilton-instigated disaster. Yet both drivers got away with just a twitch of the rear each and carried on racing at the front as if nothing had happened. It was obvious that Hamilton was absolutely desperate to overtake his team mate. He wasn’t just hungry. He was starving. Understandable after a month-long fast.

Finally, on lap six, Hamilton took his team mate. It was plain that Kovalainen was holding Hamilton up, and as soon as the Brit was released he drove off into the distance. That was understandable given the rumours that Kovalainen was on a heavier fuel load. But the rumour wasn’t true — Kovalainen was the first of the McLarens to pit.

Hamilton was heavier and was comprehensively showing Kovalainen how to do it. After the Finn’s mesmerising qualifying performance it was a real disappointment. It’s difficult to pin down just how good Kovalainen is. Ron Dennis still claims he is in the process of “re-building” the former Renault driver. It is said that Kovalainen is still not where he should be in terms of confidence and fitness.

His qualifying performance looked like we were finally back to the Kovalainen we were promised before he came into F1. But come race day he was put firmly in the shadow by Lewis Hamilton and it’s clear that Kovalainen still needs some work if he wants to be the star driver he might be. He eventually finished over a lap down in 5th. Not great.

Meanwhile, Hamilton sped off into the distance. He made only one small mistake while others seemingly couldn’t stop spinning. Whenever I looked at live timing my jaw hit the floor at how much his lead had grown. By the end of the race the gap to second-placed Nick Heidfeld was 68.5 seconds. Hamilton’s victory could hardly have been more comprehensive. What a way to silence the doubters. Having to bear Hamilton’s post-race cockiness is a small price to pay to see such an awesome drive.

It could all have been so very different if Ferrari had got it right. They had one of their nightmare weekends that they have from time to time these days. This was not quite of Melbourne 2008 proportions, but it was close.

You expect Silverstone, with its long straights and sweeping, fast corners, to suit the Ferrari. So their lack of pace in practice was a bit of a mystery. It’s not that they were particularly slow in practice, and Massa could be excused for having a huge shunt in Friday Practice 1 that wasn’t his fault (as he spun on a huge patch of Alonso’s oil). But McLaren were right up there at the top of the timing sheets.

Come qualifying it was beginning to look like Ferrari were properly out of sorts. They had a hairy moment in Q2 when they struggled to set any blistering times, and they must have breathed a sigh of relief when they got through to Q3.

Then came the race. Felipe Massa was back to his old self. He is not known for being great in the wet, and the Brazilian spun no fewer than five times. The first came on lap one. He was second-last after the spin. The only person behind him was Mark Webber, who also spun on lap one. But by the next lap Webber had overtaken him and Massa was dead last.

Webber ploughed his way through the field in stunning fashion, overtaking cars at the rate of about one per lap. At one point he reached 10th position. The Australian was helped by the fact that he was on a lighter fuel load, but it was nevertheless a stunning display. His pitstop strategy was not enough to provide him with a good result in the end though. But he certainly showed Massa how it’s done.

Massa lacked Webber’s confidence, and sometimes looked as though he wasn’t even trying. He took several laps to pass the sluggish Nico Rosberg and didn’t find the Force India of Fisichella much easier to take. After that, his ramshackle performance ensured that he remained firmly last of the runners and in the end he was the only person to finish two laps behind the leader. If Felipe Massa wins the World Championship, I will shit myself with rage.

At least Kimi Räikkönen looked a bit better in the driving department. In the early phase of the race Kimi looked like he was in with a shout of the win, being the only person who was really competing with Lewis Hamilton. But then Ferrari made a strategic blunder.

The two leaders took their pitstops simultaneously. Hamilton took a new set of intermediate tyres. Räikkönen kept his old inters on. It would have worked perfectly for Ferrari if conditions had remained as they were. But then the rain came. McLaren’s forecast must have been better. Hamilton’s fresh inters still had a tread that was capable of clearing the water from his path. Räikkönen’s tired old tyres weren’t up to the job on a circuit that was getting wetter.

Almost immediately Hamilton was a second faster than Räikkönen in just one sector. By the next lap he was almost five seconds ahead. Before long Räikkönen was firmly in the distance and Hamilton’s race was certainly his to lose. Belatedly, Räikkönen came in to change his tyres. But his race was already ruined. A couple of spins later, Räikkönen finished fourth. He was a lap down. How humiliating. From challenging for the lead to being lapped all due to a dodgy tyre decision.

It was another strategic blunder from Ferrari who seemingly were not aware of the rain that was just minutes away from arriving. How they must miss Ross Brawn, who was working a few doors down the pitlane at Honda masterminding Rubens Barrichello’s race.

Barrichello took extreme wets early on and was setting blistering lap times. It was a gamble but it paid off. Moreover, it was a masterful drive from the most experienced driver of all time. He was the last of the runners on the lead lap, 82.2 seconds behind Hamilton. But in these conditions that was enough for a well-deserved podium finish. How sweet it must be for Honda and Barrichello. The team is still not at the sharp end of the grid, but under the guidance of Ross Brawn they have certainly turned the corner.

My British Grand Prix race review will be continued tomorrow

ITV F1 have won their second Baftas in two years. For the many non-British readers of this blog, the Baftas are the most prestigious television awards in the country — our equivalent of the Emmys.

Can you guess which race they won it for?

*drum roll*

The Canadian Grand Prix

The most dire F1 broadcast of last year. The programme was so bad that ITV were inundated with complaints and even offered an “apology”, although it was more of a “lame excuse” if you ask me. Strangely, however, the apology has completely disappeared from the ITV-F1 website, Stalin-style. In its place is a mysterious article entitled ‘How BMW turned its form around’ that contains no text. Were ITV worried in case the Bafta academy saw it? (The original article lives on in the Web Archive.)

But F1 fans are not fools. We know a bad broadcast when we see one and we don’t have fish-like memories. Here is Keith Collantine’s post about it. You can also read mine.

Even if you are a Lewis Hamilton fan, ITV’s coverage of the Canadian Grand Prix was less than fitting of the Brit’s maiden win. The coverage was abruptly cut short immediately after the podium ceremony. There was no press conference and not even a sniff of analysis — just a rushed wrap-up.

Even James Allen’s usually awful commentary reached a pretty low nadir as he messed up Hamilton’s chequered flag moment. He started his “winning yelp” far too early which just made him sound a bit silly: “LEWIS HAMILTOOOOON……… … … … [checks watch]… … [reads newspaper] ……WIIIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNS!” (Check the audio here.)

Furthermore, no other Grand Prix last year was littered so much with adverts. 17 minutes and 15 seconds of race action was missed by British viewers because of ITV. That is over 16% of the race. It is also around three minutes more than even the next most advert-interrupted race. If this happened during a football match there would be nothing short of outrage, and you can bet your bottom dollar it wouldn’t win a Bafta.

ITV won a Bafta last year for its coverage of the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix. This also “happened” to be another maiden win for a Brit, Jenson Button. But that was also if anything a sub-standard ITV broadcast as Martin Brundle, the only decent person on the ITV F1 team, was not present.

As with Craig from Craigblog, I am spotting a pattern here. No matter how bad their coverage is, ITV F1 will win a Bafta as long a Brit wins a Grand Prix for the first time. We all know that no matter how good their coverage was, ITV would not have won that Bafta unless Lewis Hamilton had won. In which case, the Bafta should go to Lewis Hamilton, not ITV / North One. And last year’s should be handed to Jenson Button.

Bafta are an absolute disgrace. If academy members had carried out even a cursory web search they would have found out that ITV’s coverage of the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix attracted several complaints. Moreover, they would have found out that the vast majority of F1 fans are less than enamoured about ITV’s approach towards F1.

I wrote about ITV winning their Bafta last year. Today, it is one of the most popular posts on the blog (908 visits in the last week alone, compared to 520 for the 2nd most popular post and 255 for the third most popular).

Let us not also forget that no less an authority than Ross Brawn has criticised ITV’s coverage of Formula 1. And I haven’t even touched on the overwhelming Hammy-hype. We F1 fans really have got a bum deal from ITV, and the fact that they are showered with praise in MSM backslapping events just rubs salt into the wound. It widens the ever-growing divide between we fans on the ground and our overlords in the mainstream media.

All I can say is, thank goodness F1 coverage is moving back to the BBC next year. I don’t think I can stand much more of this.

Now where’s the sick bucket?

Read more on this travesty at F1Fanatic.

Well I didn’t get a chance to post my thoughts on the Australian Grand Prix. The Malaysian Grand Prix came around so quickly. It’s a bit much to have back-to-back races straight after the off season — like being thrown in at the deep end. Anyway, it’s a good opportunity now for me to get my thoughts together about the first two rounds of the season.

The first thing to point out is the apparent unpredictability of the season. Even though both races turned out to be relatively easy for the winners, each of them struggled in the other Grand Prix. Both podiums were occupied by three different teams, and no driver has been on the podium for both races.

It is probably fair to say that most people expected Ferrari to dominate at Melbourne — myself included. Ferrari looked to have the upper hand during winter testing and stand to benefit from McLaren’s turmoil over the winter. How wrong the predictions turned out to be though.

Both Ferrari drivers looked embarrassingly out of their depth without driver aids — Massa in particular. With Räikkönen it is probably fair to say that rather than being caught out by the new rules, the Finn simply had one of his occasional off days laden with uncharacteristic mistakes.

But the icing on the cake was Ferrari’s slew of reliability problems. Räikkönen slowed to a halt during qualifying with a fuel pressure problem and his race was cut short by an engine problem. Other problems cropped up during practice in Malaysia. Moreover, Ferrari-equipped Toro Rosso and Force India cars have had some engine-related problems in both races as well. All-in-all, it was Ferrari’s worst start to the season for around a decade and a half. So much for the pre-season predictions!

It hasn’t been plain sailing for McLaren though. I have covered the qualifying incident before, so I won’t repeat it. Australia was quite a breeze for them — the perfect way to return after the torrid events of 2007. But they didn’t have the luck or the speed in Malaysia.

Hamilton in particular was scruffy during qualifying and he carried some strange tyre wear issues into the race. A disastrous pit stop cost time in itself and probably caused aerodynamic problems for the rest of the race as the front rim shield was moving with the wheel instead of staying stationery as intended. This begs the question though — was Hamilton running with a moving aerodynamic device, therefore driving illegally?

Kovalainen has had a solid start to the season, cementing his reputation as a reliable and fast driver. He can probably be happier with his first two races than most drivers.

So, McLaren were strong in Australia and Ferrari had the upper hand in Malaysia. This is pointing towards a repeat of last season where the championship was close but few of the actual races were. The fortunes of the two teams may yo-yo according to how the cars suit the circuit.

It also looks as though the pre-race predictions that there was going to be a tight midfield were on the mark. It is difficult to see a clear ranking of the teams from 3rd downwards.

My first impression is that BMW are very strong. Those pre-season balance issues are clearly a thing of the past, which is wonderful to see. I love to see BMW doing well, and I have to say that going by the first two races it even looks as though, with a bit of luck, they could get their first win this season.

Both drivers have impressed. Robert Kubica has been particularly strong in qualifying. A poor strategy certainly cost him in Australia, and according to Piotr in the comments here it was reported that Kubica had a throttle problem. That went largely unnoticed in the British media from what I saw. He certainly made amends in Malaysia with a near flawless drive to second.

Heidfeld was stunning in Australia but bad luck hampered him in Malaysia. Who knows where he could have qualified if he didn’t have to pick his way past so many slow moving cars. Luck didn’t improve for him during the race and I feel we really didn’t see his full potential at all during the weekend. And he still finished 6th! Not bad going.

A tale of two races for Williams. Nico Rosberg did a fantastic job to finish 3rd in Australia, and Nakajima collected points as well. It looked as though Williams were back near the top where they belong.

But Malaysia was little short of a disaster from start to finish for Williams. Rosberg’s race was compromised by a needless incident with Glock on lap 1. Meanwhile, Nakajima’s race was obviously awful. Despite a relatively promising period towards the middle of the race, a puncture put paid to his race in the end.

We can’t forget Nakajima’s coming-together with Kubica in Australia. It is the kind of mistake you expect rookies to make. But if he is still doing that sort of thing by the end of the season, it will become unacceptable. We shall wait and see. Pre-season I cited Nakajima as my dark horse of the season, but he has done little to demonstrate that I was right.

Red Bull probably come next, and they look like they have the speed to regularly contend for decent points hauls. But the big question mark surrounding them is, as it was last year, reliability. You would have thought that sorting out their reliability problems would be their top priority, but if anything the problems have become much, much worse.

So the gearbox doesn’t — so far — appear to be causing too much grief. Instead, the Red Bull cars are afflicted with a plethora of silly little niggles. In particular, the Red Bull appears to be frighteningly fragile — to the extent that the stewards have been requiring explanations for the way that the car simply disintegrates if someone coughs on it.

Craig made a really good point that it seems to be a trait of Adrian Newey’s. A few years ago the McLarens were similarly fragile (and, incidentally, unreliable). Now Red Bull have the same affliction.

Besides plain old mechanical failures, the Red Bull has fallen to pieces in quite frightening ways. Firstly, there was the moment in FP2 in Malaysia where a simple trip over the kerbs absolutely wrecked David Coulthard’s suspension and sent him into a violent crash that eventually sent one of his wheels flying off. To have wheels flying about is a big no-no in safety terms, and it’s no wonder that the stewards were worried.

Then during the race, Mark Webber made a slightly aggressive entrance into the pitlane. That was enough to knock off his rear light. This is potentially another major problem were it to rain, which isn’t exactly out of the question in Sepang.

Then there was Coulthard’s coming-together with Felipe Massa in Australia. Normally you would expect Massa’s car to have the most damage, but Coulthard’s damage was major. The way the suspension fell apart then was really quite odd to my eyes.

Incidentally, on that incident, I take Coulthard’s side there. I am not DC’s biggest fan, but I really think Massa was far too ambitious to try that kind of move from that far back. It is true that Coulthard shut the door abruptly, but Massa shouldn’t have been there in the first place in my view.

Toro Rosso have the worst of all worlds when it comes to reliability. They have had their fair share of problems with last year’s car which they are still running. When they get their new car (essentially the same as Red Bull’s chassis), it will only pile on the problems. And they have that apparently unreliable Ferrari engine in the back.

Toro Rosso have had a good start to the season though. Starting the season with last year’s car has probably been an advantage to them. The trick is choosing the right time to switch to the new one.

Sébastien Bourdais impressed greatly in Australia before having that engine failure. He could buck the trend when it comes to drivers who have arrived in F1 from IRL / ChampCar who have tended to be out of their depth in F1. A needless spin in Malaysia has put a dampener on that prospect however.

Meanwhile, Vettel is further improving his reputation as F1′s new hot property. He’s looked great during some sessions, but it hasn’t come together for him during the races yet. No doubt he will soon be scoring points again for Toro Rosso.

The jury is still out on Toyota. We haven’t seen what Glock is capable of yet. But Trulli did really well in Malaysia. He set the fastest time in Q2, started 3rd on the grid and finished 4th. Not bad by Toyota standards. I wonder if he was on to something when he said that Toyota would be the surprise of the season.

Renault are disappointing. Alonso was lucky to get 4th in Australia. He won’t be able to get many points very easily this season. The Renault car just isn’t there. It’s possibly the 7th fastest car on the grid now — what a fast decline. Piquet had a bad Australian weekend, and a completely inconspicuous Malaysian weekend. He will have to up his game, but he has time to do that.

Honda are making some good progress. Not much else to point out except that they should, morally, have scored some points by now. They will do eventually, and they are looking much better than they did last year.

Just shows you what having a guy like Ross Brawn in charge can do. I have to say though, I found it deeply ironic that pitstop strategy genius Brawn’s first race in charge saw perhaps the most disastrous pitstop I have ever seen. Barrichello had to enter the pits while the pitlane was closed. Then his lollipop man lifted the lollipop too early, meaning that some mechanics were toppled over as Barrichello sped away. Then Barrichello ran through the red light at the end of the pitlane. Okay, so none of that was really Ross Brawn’s fault, but it was still quite funny.

Force India need to improve a bit more to fulfil their pre-season promise. At least they will not be permanent fixtures at the back of the grid.

That status goes to Super Aguri. But I suppose really they will feel luck simply to be there.

All-in-all, there are still plenty of unanswered questions. But the mixed-up nature of the results so far is very promising for a close Championship. I’m looking forward to Bahrain already!

In case you were wondering, I have decided against writing a review of F1′s ‘bigwigs’ — for the sake of my health. I just wrote a big rant about Max Mosley the other day anyway.

My next post was going to look at F1 websites. But this week Ollie White wrote a post about podcasts, so I thought I would move my post on podcasts to this week.

I’m a relative newcomer to podcasts. As a concept, they have grown much more quickly than blogging and I would bet that ‘podcast’ is more of a household word than ‘blog’ already. But they never really grabbed my attention because, for me, they are rather inconvenient to listen to, as I wrote a few months back.

Since I wrote that post, I have transformed into a big fan of podcasts though. This was partly because I replaced my ageing iRiver with a brand spanking new iPod.

I have to say, mega thumbs up to the people at Apple who have made keeping up with podcasts so easy! The iPod takes away so much of the hassle that existed with my old iRiver.

At first I only listened to podcasts on my commute through to university. But soon enough I found myself subscribing to more and more podcasts and not having enough time to listen to them all. Now I am such a podcast addict that I actually set aside some time every day to listen to them by going out for a walk (with the added benefits of exercise and fresh air that this brings).

So, from my mild scepticism in the late summer, I have turned into a full-on podcast addict. And right at the top of the list comes the F1 podcasts that I have gradually discovered. This post will review my favourites. They are listed in alphabetical order, in case you’re wondering.

AT&T Williams Podcast

As far as I know, Williams is one of only two Formula 1 teams who produced podcasts this year. Maybe it’s just me, but I would never have expected Williams to be so hip. They always seemed like a team that is mainly supported by middle-aged men, the kind of people who prefer Fifth Gear to Top Gear.

Maybe this is actually the case, because for me the Williams podcast is the least fulfilling of my regular listens. It is produced by USP Content — the same people who produce the excellent programmes for Radio 5 Live and Renault’s podcast. But the Williams podcast misfires a bit.

So what’s the problem? It’s just a bit too cheesy. It is a bit like a local radio programme. An example regular feature is ’2007′ (pronounced ‘twenty-oh-seven’) where presenter David Croft talks to Alexander Wurz at 8:07 PM on the Saturday before the race. I don’t know, but that is quite a hollow feature to me. Yeah, neat pun, but it’s a bit meaningless when you’re listening at whatever time you choose. Besides, we don’t even know that the interview was conducted at 8:07 PM and apart from that there was nothing much to the feature.

The interviews, conducted by Tom Clarkson, were normally a bit too fluffy for my liking. I can remember actually cringing at some of the questions. It is probably reasonably entertaining for some fans. But if you’re looking for insight and analysis it is best to look elsewhere.

Worst of all, some kind of glitch towards the end of the season meant that the podcasts weren’t getting delivered (at least to me — and I remember Sidepodcast mentioning a similar problem). The podcasts for Japan, China and Brazil all arrived on my iPod weeks after the season had finished. Does this mean that they were not getting published? To think about all the work that must have gone into producing them, only for them to be inaccessible until they were completely out of date.

All evidence that the Williams podcast existed seems to have been removed from the Williams website, which perhaps suggests that the podcast won’t be making a return next season. A list of old episodes is available on USP Content’s website though, and the iTunes link is here.

Chequered Flag Formula 1

The BBC’s Formula 1 podcast is one of the best for my money. The centrepiece programme is The Chequered Flag, which provides analysis soon after the end of every race. But when you subscribe to the feed you also receive other F1 programmes broadcast on Radio 5 Live including the race preview show and occasional editions of the 606 phone-in.

There is not much else to say apart from the obvious. I already covered Radio 5 Live’s coverage in last week’s post, and the same applies to the podcast. They contain excellent interviews and top-notch analysis. The kind of quality you expect from the BBC. Great stuff.

F1 Rejects

Direct from Australia comes the funniest F1 podcast I have come across.

The website is dedicated to the “heroic failures” of Formula 1 — the people at the back of the grid who regularly put their lives at risk despite the fact that they have no hope of achieving any success. The podcast has a similar vibe, with a kind of attitude towards bad drivers that is a curious mixture of disgust and awe — an attitude that I broadly share.

But while the podcast revels in its celebration / castigation of F1′s rejects, it has plenty to say about the world of F1 in general. If you are looking for a humorous take on the world of F1, look no further. I have only been listening for a couple of episodes, but already F1 Rejects is one of my favourite podcasts.

Formula 1 Blog

On balance, this is probably my favourite Formula 1 podcast. It is American, which is an advantage because it doesn’t fall into the trap that Brits have fallen into by dividing into two camps — pro-Hamilton and anti-Hamilton. Formula 1 Blog is more neutral in this regard — a great dose of reality in this world of Hamilton hype and anti-hype.

But Formula 1 Blog certainly isn’t a neutral podcast, and it prides itself on being a journal of opinion. Negative Camber is a Ferrari fan (no, I don’t understand either) and his sidekick Grace is a McLaren fan. As a result, the banter between them is fantastic to listen to!

Negative Camber is also quite nifty at doing impressions. His impression of Patrick Head’s grumpy expression is hilarious and a couple of weeks back he did an impression of Ross Brawn that had me in stitches on the train. I do worry about his strange obsession with Matt Bishop though. Any discussion of a McLaren press release soon turns into a discussion about Matt Bishop and how he copes with wearing the grey McLaren uniform instead of his normal loud shirts.

The podcast also touches on other motor sports, particularly MotoGP and WRC. But the centrepiece of the podcast is F1.

The podcasts are a tad on the long side — typically lasting almost an hour. The long idents also grate a little bit. They are an entertaining listen the first time round, but after that it takes about two minutes from the start of the podcast until the actual discussion begins. Nevertheless, it is always an entertaining listen.

ING Renault F1 Team Podcast

Note to Williams: this is how you do an F1 team podcast!

The most astonishing thing about the Renault podcast is the fact that important people who probably have a lot on their plate take a great deal of time to appear on the podcast. After every race, Radio 5 Live presenter Holly Samos visits the Renault factory to make the podcast. It is a brilliant way for an F1 team to reach the fans.

Pat Symonds in particular should be applauded for his dedication. It is always worth listening to what he says, and he provides refreshingly honest answers. He has held his hands up and said that Renault produced a bad car this year, and he has been completely open about these faults on the podcast.

The interviews with the drivers are also worth listening to, as they manage to avoid the fluff and cheese of the Williams podcast. It is strange that both podcasts are produced by the same company, USP Content, as the difference in quality could hardly be more stark.

I really do hope that Renault continue the podcast next season. More teams should follow suit, and the Renault template should guide them because it really is top-notch stuff.

Sidepodcast

This was the first F1 podcast I started listening to regularly, and I still loyally follow it.

I am in two minds about Sidepodcast, because I really like it when Christine and ‘me’ have an opinionated discussion, but the more factual and newsy elements of the podcast are not my cup of tea. For instance, a lap-by-lap review of the race sends me to sleep because I already know what happened. After all, I watched the race. However, I can see how it could be useful for those who missed the race.

Sidepodcast should be applauded for its experimental variants on the format. From time to time, for instance, short series are produced. For instance, last week there was a series called ‘Days that Shook the F1 World’ — a short daily podcast, each one focussing on a different pivotal moment in F1 history. Again, for me, these series are not so entertaining because I am personally the type who would rather delve into Wikipedia and books to find out more about such events.

There is a spin-off podcast called F1 Minute. It is a daily, 60 second long podcast rounding up the day’s F1 news in brief. Again, for me, it is not very useful because I usually keep up with news using RSS feeds and I already know most of the stories featured in the podcast. Nevertheless, it must be an excellent resource for those who are unable to keep up with the news as much.

However, I am in awe at the Sidepodcast video podcasts, which are top quality previews of each race. How do they do it?

Sidepodcast should also be congratulated for offering podcasts in the ‘enhanced’ format. These divide podcasts into DVD-style chapters. They also have the capacity to display images as the podcast is playing, which can be quite good if your are sitting around or in the train or something, although rather more off-putting if you’re going for a walk!

All-in-all, the content of Sidepodcast is not all my cup of tea. But in terms of effort, there is no doubt about it. Sidepodcast takes the crown.

That’s it for my review of my favourite F1 podcasts. Does anyone have any other suggestions? I have already mentioned Ollie’s post which contains some other suggestions that I will be trying out in the future, so take a look at that as well.