Kunal's F1 Blog

What’s Wrong With Formula1?

Posted on | April 14, 2015 | 12 Comments

Except for Max Verstappen and his bold maneuvers on track, I got bored during the broadcast of the 2015 Chinese Grand Prix. Okay, I admit, Pastor Maldonado entertained too, in parts. But that was it! Post-race, I wondered, what’s wrong with Formula1? And I couldn’t find a direct answer.

After a drab 2014 Formula1 Season, we have two marquee manufacturer teams battling for wins on track – Ferrari vs. Mercedes. In this, we have (yet) two World Champions fighting at the front – Vettel vs. Hamilton, not so typical a script for Formula1 for the last few seasons. We also have another former World Champion (Raikkonen) in a Ferrari trying to find his way to the front; not to mention, the other Mercedes driver (Rosberg) who desperately wants to win his first World Championship too. My point is that we finally have a battle of sorts to follow.

What's Wrong With Formula1?

Add to this mix, Mclaren are patiently trying to script their comeback with Honda. That Alonso and Button are fighting hard to avoid the last two slots in the race classification is fun to watch too. We also have a competitive Williams – after nearly a decade and Toro Rosso, who seem faster than Red Bull Racing. All in all, there are battles (however small) taking place for nearly every position on the grid. (Read: Thank You Mclaren)

We also have fresh talent who have impressed (yet) in their debut season – Nasr, Sainz Jr., Verstappen and maybe Ericsson too. When we interviewed David Coulthard on the Inside Line F1 Podcast, he admitted that the newer formula is relatively easier to drive, but that is beside the point. The younger drivers have battled hard and have entertained us well, of course, scored much needed points for their teams. (Read: Formula One or Formula Rookie?)

Despite this, I wondered, what is wrong with Formula1? Why are fans consistently turning away from the sport? I can’t remember many tweets / posts from fans who have enjoyed the races this year barring Malaysia – attributing that to the element of surprise! (Read: Game On, Ferrari)

Is it the new ‘formula’ in the sport? Are we in such a stage of technical complexity that it is a turn-off for most of the fans? Is it the lack of engine sound? Is the Mercedes dominance and the lack of performance by Ferrari, Mclaren and Red Bull Racing hurting more than it should? Is the business of Formula1 affecting the sport directly for the first time? Or is the negativity about teams shutting down, or struggling to line-up on the grid the problem? (Read: Your Chance To Own An F1 Team)

Is the migration of the sport of newer territories affecting the traditional fan base? Is it Bernie Ecclestone’s leadership or the FIA’s lack of direction? Or is there a mismatch between what the fans are expecting and the sport is delivering? (Read: Formula One Needs Better Marketing)

Despite being involved with the sport for many years, I am unable to pinpoint where the problem lies. But I believe much of the questions that I have asked have some or the other answer which add up to the issues the sport faces. And while I am unable to pinpoint, I think I am able to list down my expectations from the sport (which I shall share in my next post). (Read: What Formula One Can Learn From Red Bull)

This is where I would like to invite fan comments. Tell me what you believe the issues with the sport are? Maybe if I get a good number of responses, I will send this post with the comments to FOM for them to refer as ‘fan survey’!

And I know this post isn’t one that will generate much of a positive response. The first negative response was from my co-driver and partner-in-crime Mithila Mehta who argued that the sport has made progress from last year on the very points I have raised above. But then again, she’s a purist, like many others who will read this blog post. Most of these purists would watch the sport even if there were only two cars racing each other on track! Let’s face it, we didn’t tune away from the six car grid in the 2005 United States Grand Prix!

Lastly, here’s your chance to tune in to the latest episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast ‘Max Worst-happened’. The title credit goes to my father (Atul Shah). Yes, we are an out-an-out Formula1 family!

We speak about Max Verstappen’s entertaining drive, followed by Alonso and Raikkonen’s championship winning comments. Lastly, we pray that Rosberg takes the fight to Hamilton, because the Ferrari vs. Mercedes seems more hype than substance. Tune in!

The Inside Line F1 Podcast is now available on various platforms and I would welcome you to choose your platform to listen to the humour that we add to the otherwise serious and complex sport of Formula1. And while our podcast frequency is weekly, come ‘like‘ the Inside Line F1 Podcast on Facebook and on Google+ for far frequent humorous updates from the world of Formula1.

If you are an Apple user, you can subscribe to the Inside Line F1 Podcast on the iTunes Podcast Store or via our RSS feed (for Android/Windows/Blackberry users). The Inside Line F1 Podcast is also available on TuneIn Radio.

The Inside Line Formula1 Podcast is produced and hosted by Rishi Kapoor and Kunal Shah. Follow us on Twitter and on our SoundcloudDailyMotionSpreakerMixCloud and YouTube channels.

At The Red Bull F1 Showrun in Hyderabad With David Coulthard

Posted on | April 5, 2015 | 4 Comments

Okay, I admit, I wasn’t the biggest fan of David Coulthard (DC). And even if I tried, it would’ve been difficult to be one. After all, he raced in the era of Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen. And I know I am not the only one. But what’s strange, is that Coulthard is aware.

Rishi and I had the opportunity to meet, talk and be with DC as we helped him prepare for his debut on the Inside Line F1 Podcast – much like the Red Bull Racing and Renault engineers helped him prepare for his debut in Hyderabad for the Red Bull F1 Showcar Run. Yes, for those who remember, we had Nico Rosberg earlier on the podcast too. (Read: Nico Rosberg Takes The Inside Line)

David Coulthard - Red Bull F1 Showcar Run in Hyderabad

In the week leading up to the ‘talk’ with Coulthard, Rishi and I researched well. We simulated conversations, questions and even answers, but that’s what Formula1 is all about. After all, we were talking to the one man who is pretty much our link between the present and the past, but also is the man who we weren’t the biggest fans of. So we knew we had to research well, to keep Coulthard interested, and of course, our listeners too.

Our conversation with DC was extraordinary. He took to the ‘humour’ genre very well and ended up sharing some really exciting and funny anecdotes of the sport that most fans wouldn’t know. He also talked his competition with Schumacher, Hakkinen and why he is content not being a Drivers’ World Champion. And interestingly enough, he tells us why the Inside Line F1 Podcast (Rishi and I) might never make money from the podcast! Sigh! But even then, it is hard to leave the discussion without feeling respect towards DC without having taken the first few steps towards fan-dom!

But this week’s episode is probably the biggest one (yet) in the history of our podcast. Besides speaking to DC, we also had the opportunity to meet a handful of Formula1 fans, speak to them about the new era of the sport and seek their views. Apart from that, I also met Latesh, one of the earliest readers of my Formula1 blog and listeners of the Inside Line F1 Podcast. Feels good to know that we are well listened to and that our opinions and jokes on the sport matter.

So tune in and laugh out loud with David Coulthard, Rishi Kapoor and me in this week’s special episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast. And before I forget, a BIG thanks to a few of our listeners for sharing fan questions. We had all intentions to mention their names after asking their question, but the lack of time made us re-work the discussion pattern. I missed out mentioned Ajit, Darshan, Ian, Jamie, Lucien and others for their inputs on the discussion points.

PS: We have LOADS of content from the Red Bull F1 Showcar Run, tune in to our channel and on our social media to access it.

Red Bull partnered with the Inside Line F1 Podcast for exclusive behind-the-scenes footage of the Red Bull F1 Showrun….

Posted by Inside Line F1 Podcast on Monday, April 6, 2015

The MOST AWESOME video for an #F1 fan to see on a non-GP weekend! Catch DC’s debut on the Inside Line F1 Podcast:…

Posted by Inside Line F1 Podcast on Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Inside Line F1 Podcast is now available on various platforms and I would welcome you to choose your platform to listen to the humour that we add to the otherwise serious and complex sport of Formula1. And while our podcast frequency is weekly, come ‘like‘ the Inside Line F1 Podcast on Facebook and on Google+ for far frequent humorous updates from the world of Formula1.

If you are an Apple user, you can subscribe to the Inside Line F1 Podcast on the iTunes Podcast Store or via our RSS feed (for Android/Windows/Blackberry users). The Inside Line F1 Podcast is also available on TuneIn Radio.

The Inside Line Formula1 Podcast is produced and hosted by Rishi Kapoor and Kunal Shah. Follow us on Twitter and on our SoundcloudDailyMotionSpreakerMixCloud and YouTube channels.

What Formula One Can Learn From Red Bull

Posted on | April 4, 2015 | No Comments

We’re in the 65th year of our sport of Formula1. I am not sure about any other sporting category, but in the category of Motorsport, this is possibly the longest run annual World Championship. One of the most visually appealing man-machine duels in the world, the sport has possibly a million images and videos of the heroes (and zeroes) of the yesteryears, the victories, the near wins and the near losses, the crashes, exciting wheel to wheel battles between world famous drivers and more.

In a world where ‘content is king’, Formula1 is in position to share this exciting content with fans on a regular basis and maintain the interest between races. Especially in times where the movie Rush was more spoken about (and possibly viewed?) than the Mercedes dominated 2014 Formula1 Season. (Read: What Formula One Can Learn From Rush)

I have written about this before and I say it again – Formula1 needs to invest in its own marketing. Currently, it relies on team sponsors and the local organisers to generate fan interest. And what’s most surprising to me is that the sport makes more money than the stakeholders who currently end up marketing it, which means that the stakes are only that much higher for the sport. (Read: Formula One Needs To Market Itself Better)

Red Bull Racing Pit Stop In London (Courtesy: Google Images)

To me, Formula One Management needs to create a kitty, either self funded (will be a drop in the ocean of the millions of pounds of profit every season!), or funded by the teams (Oops! Yet another investment!) to help run its marketing causes – especially in newer territories like Russia, China, Abu Dhabi, etc. Could the Indian Grand Prix have succeeded if the sport had marketed itself better, I often wonder. (Read: How To Save The Indian GP)

But this is Formula1 – a sport where unity is tough to find (unless it is to ban helmet design changes – Helmet Ban(ter)!), so the common kitty is like a dream that might not come true. This is where I believe Formula1 can learn from and emulate Red Bull. The energy drinks company that has invested in various sports globally to showcase their brand (no, I don’t mean that Formula1 needs to invest in other adventure sports!). Red Bull’s Content Pool is what the Formula1 marketing team (is there one?) should be looking to copy – and copying isn’t new to the sport!

Red Bull invests in extensive production capabilities to create interesting content (in text and video) around these sports to spread the word, increase engagement and create more interest. I think Red Bull has more Formula1 videos (on Red Bull Racing and non-GP ones at that) in their pool than any other team or the sport for that matter. Strangely enough, for generic videos, it is ‘fan videos’ on YouTube that fans rely on – that is if Formula One Management hasn’t already pulled them down for copyright infringement.

Imagine if videos of Prost vs. Senna, Schumacher vs. Hakkinen, and the other greats from the yesteryears were packaged well and uploaded in a content pool controlled by FOM. Fans, especially the new age ones, would be able to relive those old memories and actually get to see why those drivers were regarded as valiant heroes and champions rather than read about it from a handful of journalists from that era. (Read: Formula One Puts Fans First)

These videos could be used as marketing tools between races. And if FOM is worried that ‘free’ access to their archives isn’t worth their time and money, I don’t see why a nominal fee can’t be charged for fans to spend hours just accessing older content (yes, one more avenue for Bernie to make money!). If a fan knows that ‘Rush’ type short format videos are available for viewing, I wouldn’t be surprised if more fans tune in to these videos than the modern era of Formula1 that has failed to generate and sustain fan interest. (Read: Formula Yawn)

Nearly a decade after Twitter was founded (2006), Formula1 has hesitantly and only just taken to the medium this season – nearly six or seven years after the teams took to it. @F1 does a good job of sharing interesting content from the past (a couple of videos are out already) and some statistics from their newly launched (and charged) live timing controls. The fraternity has rejoiced their arrival on the medium and much like Honda, they’ve some catching up to do. I am only glad that there’s no ‘token system’ to develop the Twitter handle. But of course, they’ve ignored Facebook, Instagram and the others. I guess it is time to learn from Red Bull, or just let them come and run your marketing.

A selection of a few really interesting Formula1 videos from the Red Bull Content Pool:

Red Bull has given wings to the Inside Line F1 Podcast and my Formula1 blog (Read: Red Bull Gives Us Wings). We are in Hyderabad to witness and cover the ‘Red Bull F1 Showrun’, stay tuned during the weekend for exclusive content in text, audio and images. Instant updates on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. Here’s one from this morning!

Red Bull F1 Showrun in Hyderabad

Inside Line F1 Podcast – Red Bull Gives Us Wings

Posted on | April 2, 2015 | No Comments

The Inside Line F1 Podcast is on its way to Hyderabad (YAY!); to bring to you exclusives from the Red Bull Speed Run being organized on 5th April 2015 (Hyderabad). Believe it or not, Rishi and I both thought that this was an April Fools’ joke!

In one of our first exclusives of 2015, we will be publishing a special post-event episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast on Sunday (5th April 2015). In this podcast, we will aim to bring to you behind-the-scenes coverage, exclusive bytes from David Coulthard, the thundering sounds of the V8 engine and a few social videos, if possible. Remember to follow us (TwitterFacebookSoundCloudiTunes, etc.) for all our regular updates!

This is the classic case that Red Bull makes so strongly and effortlessly here too. This reminds me of when they gave Daniil Kvyat wings and promoted him to the ‘parent’ team of Red Bull Racing to replace a Ferrari bound Sebastian Vettel. The Inside Line F1 Podcast has grown from strength to strength in the last 18 months and to be recognized by Red Bull for our efforts and to avail this exclusive opportunity is absolutely super; we do feel like we’ve grown wings!

The adrenaline rush from this news was so high that Rishi and I decided to meet mid-week and record yet another podcast (a bonus for our listeners!) in which we take a quick tour back in history for the Infiniti Red Bull Racing team – how they came about, their key achievements, their drivers and of course, why they are the best role model for a new team entering Formula1.

And of course, we are known for our interactivity across all platforms. If you’ve a question or two for DC himself, write to us (comments, tweets, FB messages, etc.) and we will shortlist a few and use them in our next episode. Tune in!

The Inside Line F1 Podcast is now available on various platforms and I would welcome you to choose your platform to listen to the humour that we add to the otherwise serious and complex sport of Formula1. And while our podcast frequency is weekly, come ‘like‘ the Inside Line F1 Podcast on Facebook and on Google+ for far frequent humorous updates from the world of Formula1.

If you are an Apple user, you can subscribe to the Inside Line F1 Podcast on the iTunes Podcast Store or via our RSS feed (for Android/Windows/Blackberry users). The Inside Line F1 Podcast is also available on TuneIn Radio.

The Inside Line Formula1 Podcast is produced and hosted by Rishi Kapoor and Kunal Shah. Follow us on Twitter and on our SoundcloudDailyMotionSpreakerMixCloud and YouTube channels.

Inside Line F1 Podcast – Vettel vs. Hamilton For The Championship?

Posted on | March 31, 2015 | 2 Comments

Yes, I am over-stepping myself, unlike Ferrari and Vettel probably. But this is exactly what the fans want and possibly what the sport of Formula1 needs – Game On, Ferrari, really? Will be super to have a Vettel vs. Hamilton vs. Raikkonen vs. Rosberg vs. Alonso vs. Button vs. Ricciardo vs. Kvyat and if Massa and Bottas are allowed to join the battle too! But the nature of the sport and its regulations (well almost!) dis-allow multiple teams from being competitive. Should this happen, it’ll be a nightmare for Lewis Hamilton and his beloved fans. But this debate is for another day. (Read: Some One Please Fight Back)

Can Vettel and Ferrari remain in the battle long enough in the 2015 Formula1 Season to become genuine contenders? I think not, but I am hoping to be proved wrong and be surprised. I do believe that they will be a force to reckon with on circuits where tyre strategy can play a crucial role and they can manage to stop fewer times than their competition – guess this is a typical James Allison influence on their chassis and not a bad one at that. But on the rest, I expect Mercedes to fly away with Lewis Hamilton at the wheel. (Read: Mercedes Is The New Red Bull Racing)

Sebastian Vettel vs. Lewis Hamilton - 2015 Drivers' Championship?

But what about Nico Rosberg? If he doesn’t pick up the pace and beat Hamilton soon, he might just be reduced to playing a support role if Vettel vs. Hamilton does indeed happen. He seems to be a little more than lost and a bit of sports psychology could come to his rescue. But I don’t think Kimi Raikkonen will face similar fate. Had he been lucky, he could challenged for the win in the 2015 Malaysian Grand Prix. Don’t believe us? We offer some math in this week’s episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast.

Rishi and I love to research and reveal subjects on the sport that otherwise get missed. We might not have access to Rosberg’s telemetry, but we reveal why he was slow all weekend in Sepang. Similarly well tell you Max Verstappen could end up forcing the sport to change their podium procedures should he manage one soon. Also, do you think so too that Vettel could do with a new tailor? (Read: Thank You Red Bull Racing and Formula One or Formula Rookie?)

Lastly, we agree with Bernie Ecclestone that we should have a separate Formula1 (or the likes) Championship for women, but our reasons differ. And before you think we are sexist, tune in to know why.

(Read: Blame It On Bernie? and 

Will Formula One Survive Without Bernie?)

The Inside Line F1 Podcast is now available on various platforms and I would welcome you to choose your platform to listen to the humour that we add to the otherwise serious and complex sport of Formula1. And while our podcast frequency is weekly, come ‘like‘ the Inside Line F1 Podcast on Facebook and on Google+ for far frequent humorous updates from the world of Formula1.

If you are an Apple user, you can subscribe to the Inside Line F1 Podcast on the iTunes Podcast Store or via our RSS feed (for Android/Windows/Blackberry users). The Inside Line F1 Podcast is also available on TuneIn Radio.

The Inside Line Formula1 Podcast is produced and hosted by Rishi Kapoor and Kunal Shah. Follow us on Twitter and on our SoundcloudDailyMotionSpreakerMixCloud and YouTube channels.

AND a big shout out to our new partners World F1 News! Go follow them on Google+ to receive latest news and views on the sport.

Game On, Ferrari

Posted on | March 29, 2015 | No Comments

When we (Rishi and I) recorded the pre-season episode of the Inside Line F1 PodcastFerrari vs. Mercedes, Really?‘ we were certain that we were kidding ourselves. We were certain that Ferrari were kidding us too (low fuel runs, we exclaimed!). We never imagined that a Mercedes would be beaten on raw pace and strategy in the 2015 Formula1 Season and some of our fans would’ve been delighted to know that we even wondered if Lewis Hamilton could win every single race this season. (Read: Mercedes Is The New Red Bull Racing)

Post the conclusion of the 2015 Australian Grand Prix, we were sure that our fears for the season could well come true. Hamilton was in a league of his own and Rosberg in his (that of making mistakes and playing cheeky!)! While Ferrari had caught up, they were yet far (and slow) enough to challenge for wins. Williams, as much as they’d like to believe so, have little chance of winning against a Mercedes with a Mercedes engine. Red Bull Racing seemed busy finding new excuses to blame Renault while Mclaren were busy hunting for motivational quotes to give away during each media interaction! (Read: Someone Please Fight Back)

If someone would’ve told me (or any other Formula1 fan in the world) that Sebastian Vettel would’ve not just challenged but won against Mercedes by the second round (2015 Malaysian Grand Prix) of the season, I would’ve saved my dime over a senseless bet and my time over wishful thinking. The only possibility of a non-Mercedes win this season (in my mind) was if the two Mercedes cars would’ve retired due to reliability reasons or taken each other out; with Rosberg racing, that’s somewhat a possibility. (Read: A Nico and A Nico-le)

Sebastian Vettel Wins The 2015 Malaysian Grand Prix

But Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari managed the unthinkable in Sepang. They pulled off a mega win by beating Mercedes on pace and by outsmarting them with a better tyre strategy. Yes, their strategy was aided by the early Safety Car period (Thank you Marcus Ericsson, you were of some good today!), but the team backed themselves to not pit under the SC period and continue to trust the medium compound to deliver results while Mercedes were in hot pursuit on the harder one.

Vettel’s win was much needed – for Vettel himself, Ferrari, the sport and the fans. Despite winning four Drivers’ Championships on the trot with Red Bull Racing, critics awarded his titles to Adrian Newey’s design efforts rather than his talent. Early days to judge Vettel’s career with Ferrari, but he does seem to have started on the right foot – podium in Australia followed by a victory in Malaysia. Fans and media also wondered, where Alonso failed, could Vettel succeed? After all, the Spaniard is the sport’s ‘most complete driver’ yet! And in all of this, there’s the burden of expectations to turn around the ailing team and turn them into a winning machine, much like his compatriot Michael Schumacher did. And if his critics aren’t silenced yet, they never will be, but it is worth knowing that he is one of the only (or the only?) driver on the grid to have won a race in three different cars! (Read: From Vettel To Lord Vitthal)

The Italian team’s last win was registered at the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix (nearly two seasons ago!) and they took some very brave and not-so-popular decisions at the end of 2014 to shake up their management (Bye Bye Montezemolo!) and driver line-up (Fire Alonso, Hire Vettel) in a strong bid to reclaim their lost glory and success.

On the other hand, the sport is still deeply stuck in a negative cycle which includes discussions and over analysis of various factors such as power trains, their noise, circuits and markets, marketing, etc. and of course, teams either unable to compete or threatening to quit the sport altogether. While Vettel’s victory will change nothing, there’s at least something to cheer about and of course, write about on my Formula1 blog! (Read: Blame It On Bernie?)

And finally, the fans, they’re stuck in a deeper conundrum! A large but dwindling number tune in to the broadcast of the sport every fortnight only to witness one team dominate without much challenge from the others. Tune in or tune away, is the question that puzzles most of us, but luckily for Formula1, there no other major global motorsport category or event for us to follow! (Read: Formula1 Puts Fans First)

While Vettel and Ferrari displayed that Mercedes could be beaten, can they possibly repeat their feat in China or the races that follow? By their own admission and my understanding too, I wouldn’t believe so. Ferrari benefited in Sepang with an early Safety Car period and a chassis that managed tyres in the extreme track temperatures (nearly reaching 65 degress!) better than Mercedes. The Italian team is in its period of transformation and this early victory will prove to be a shot in the arm, but I do expect Mercedes to return to the front in the 2015 Chinese Grand Prix. (Read: Formula One or Formula Rookie?)

The other plus of a Vettel victory (in a Ferrari) was the return of the German – Italian anthem combination, one that was made world famous by the great Michael Schumacher and brought back memories of his time at the Scuderia. It seemed almost wrong to not hear the Italian anthem followed by the German one each time Rosberg won last year. Admittedly so, I have possibly heard the German and Italian anthems the most after the Indian ‘Jan Gan Man’! (Read: Permanent No. 1 – Vettel vs. Schumacher?)

Sebastian Vettel Wins The 2015 Malaysian Grand Prix

The reality of the matter is that a competitive Ferrari has always proved to be beneficial for the sport and it always helps to have two (or more) teams to compete for wins. I wonder if more fans would’ve tuned in to the broadcast of the 2015 Malaysian Grand Prix if they were certain that Ferrari vs. Mercedes was for real. And while a few more will tune in to the 2015 Chinese Grand Prix with hopes of the battle continuing, there’s no guarantee that it will. Sigh! (This is exactly what the sport needs to work on without giving much of a damn on the regulations and ‘formula’ of Formula1!) (Read: Formula One Needs Better Marketing)

The two (other) notable drives of the day were that of Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen. Raikkonen suffered an early race puncture (an evil one at that where his tyre blew just as he passed the entry of the pit-lane) and had to manage an extra pit-stop. Despite this mess, he finished only 54 seconds behind Vettel which makes me wonder – had everything been normal for the Iceman, could he have battled with Vettel for the win?

Verstappen drove a mature race with some good overtaking moves to finish P7, ahead of Sainz Jr. and his senior Red Bull Racing team-mates Ricciardo and Kvyat. Much as everyone is heralding his arrival at the top flight of Motorsport, I read a stat which confirmed that Formula1 cars of this era are not just easy to drive, but slow too (At Malaysia, the pole position time from the 2013 GP2 season would’ve been P8 for the 2015 Malaysian Grand Prix!). The lad has talent, no doubt, but I will reserve my views for a few more races. I would hate to praise a driver only to see him go the Alguersuari or Buemi way! (Read: Thank You Red Bull Racing)

Mclaren topped the list of disappointments this weekend (expectedly so) followed by the FIA Stewards who awarded harsh in-race penalties (ten seconds) and license penalty points to the Force India drivers. (Read: Thank You Mclaren)

Vettel’s dream with Ferrari is to emulate his idol Michael Schumacher’s success by not just following his footsteps, but laying a few of his own. If the emotions (by Vettel, Ferrari and the fans) at the 2015 Malaysian Grand Prix were anything to go by, I can’t wait for Vettel’s Ferrari dream to become a reality. But yes, I also wonder where would Kimi Raikkonen fit in this dream. A Rubens Barrichello, I am sure not!

Hopes On Vettel And Rain In Sepang

Posted on | March 28, 2015 | 1 Comment

Come rain or shine, the fight for pole position was expected to be between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. But it wasn’t so, much to the surprise and excitement of Formula1 fans. Sebastian Vettel managed to split the dominant Mercedes team by driving a lap less than a tenth of Hamilton’s, who grabbed his second successive pole position of the 2015 Formula1 Season and 40th overall.

What’s happened to Rosberg? It seems he’s lacking application and maybe some confidence. Hamilton has upped a gear or two after his World Championship win last year and Rosberg seems unable to respond at the moment. He’s clearly struggling from the driver radio ban and this was evident in today’s qualifying session too. Apart from that, it seemed that he wanted to rely on his cheekiness to slow down Hamilton rather than focus on lapping faster than him. His ‘blocking’ of Hamilton was an age old attempt to follow a racer and learn his racing lines! (Psst! He asked for similar guidance on radio as well!) (Read: Nico Ros-boo-rg and Ross The Boss)

But the sport is relying on Rosberg to perform, to take the fight to Hamilton and make the sport interesting. The 2014 Formula1 Season has gone down in history as the one where friends turned foes (Read: Still Friends #NoProblem) and we risk 2015 for being remembered as when Lewis Hamilton won everything! This is also where I am glad to see Ferrari pick up the pace and try and battle with Mercedes. (Read: Ferrari vs. Mercedes, Really?)

Sebastian Vettel - 2015 Malaysian Grand Prix

I do believe that today’s wet session helped mask the apparent gap between Mercedes and Ferrari, but if it rains during the race, will it still be anyone’s race? I think not! Mercedes have a greater advantage which they can unlock if and when they are challenged is my belief. Unless there are reliability issues or incidents on track, I doubt Hamilton can be beaten to the chequered flag tomorrow. I don’t believe Rosberg, who is starting 3rd, will have the favoured tyre strategy for tomorrow’s race – this is in line with how Mercedes has operated with their drivers over the past years. (Read: Mercedes Prefer A Blonde On Top)

Vettel’s ‘anything can happen’ statement post-qualifying was one for the media and fans and not a depiction of reality, of course, I would love to be proved wrong. Strange that after accusing Vettel of making the sport boring not too long ago, we are relying on him to ensure that tomorrow’s race isn’t yet another snore-fest like the 2015 Australian Grand Prix. This could also mean that tomorrow might not be Mercedes vs. Cricket after all! (Read: iPhone5S-ebastian)

The biggest disappointment (after Rosberg and his cheeky incident) in qualifying was Kimi Raikkonen, who mistimed his Q2 attempt and got held up behind Sauber’s Ericsson. I would love to know if this was a driver or a pit-wall error! Starting 11th, I hope the Finn can make up positions and entertain fans along the way. It is always good for the sport to see Ferrari doing well.

I also hope that it was the rain that affected the pace of the Williams F1 Team drivers. I was surprised to not see Bottas fighting at the front given his wet weather talent. That the second fastest Mercedes powered team was beaten by both the Red Bulls and a Toro Rosso does make me wonder if they went wrong with their setup altogether or just mistimed their runs. If Williams wish to compete with Mercedes and beat Ferrari (and finish top 3), they will need to up their smartness quotient! (Read: Fed Up Of Rule Changes In Formula1)

The star of today’s qualifying session would be Max Verstappen – who qualified less than a tenth behind his Red Bull Racing team-mate Kyvat (I would usually say ‘senior’ Red Bull Racing team-mate, but I can’t in this context!) and also equalled his father Jos’s best ever qualifying position (P6) in his second race itself. While I applaud his talent, I am certain that the car that his father drove twenty years ago was far more difficult to manage and control and here is where I wonder if Formula1-spec cars are easier than ever to drive and if this is also why Sainz Jr., Nasr and other rookies have impressed in their early outings itself. (Read: Formula One Is Funny)

And lastly, I hope that it is the heat and increase in track temperature that will be the reason for Pirelli’s degradation and not their recent transfer in ownership to a Chinese company, ChemChina. (Read: Our Secret Tyre Test With Pirelli)

Qualifying Results:

  1. Lewis Hamilton
  2. Sebastian Vettel
  3. Nico Rosberg
  4. Daniel Ricciardo
  5. Daniil Kvyat
  6. Max Verstappen
  7. Felipe Massa
  8. Romain Grosjean
  9. Valtteri Bottas
  10. Marcus Ericsson
  11. Kimi Raikkonen
  12. Pastor Maldonado
  13. Nico Hulkenberg
  14. Sergio Perez
  15. Carlos Sainz Jr.
  16. Felipe Nasr
  17. Jenson Button
  18. Fernando Alonso

Did Not Qualify

  • Roberto Merhi
  • Will Stevens

My blog made it to top 25 Formula1 blogs to read, thank you for your reads, likes, shares and listens! Keep Racing!

Inside Line F1 Podcast – Mercedes vs. Cricket

Posted on | March 24, 2015 | 2 Comments

Going strictly by the form factor from the 2015 Australian Grand Prix, it seems that the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup finals will be the toughest competition for Mercedes this Sunday. And while Mercedes may be up to the challenge, I certainly am not. I really hope that Star Sports beams the 2015 Malaysian Grand Prix without much hullaballoo. And to add to the merry of the Motorsport fan, there’s the MotoGP race in Qatar too! (Read: Ditched By Star Sports, Formula1 Fans Will Thank TATA)

(If you’re a Cricket fan and have clicked on this link because of the interesting title, you are welcome to listen to the first few mins of our podcast where we tell you why and how Formula1 scores over Cricket!)

Am I looking forward to the race after a boring race in Melbourne? The answer would be a straight yes. I am keen to see how many cars start the race and how many finish it. I am also keen to see if Formula1 can plummet to new levels of boring fans all over, or will Pirelli’s indication the race will be a two-stopper offer much entertainment? If nothing does, I am told that the rain might just. I do find it strange that despite the fastest cars and drivers on the grid, we are looking at external factors to make wheel-to-wheel racing interesting! Sigh! (Read: Formula One or Formula Rookie?)

Lewis Hamilton tries his hand at cricket

What surprises me that the only other team that seems to be thinking similarly (or sort of) is Red Bull Racing (Read: Thank You Red Bull Racing). And what is even more surprising is that they aren’t finding much support from the Paddock yet. Rishi and I have turned old (and will turn older) discussing the shortcomings of the sport, the changes it needs and it seems that finally after years of screaming out loud on the Inside Line F1 Podcast, the Williams F1 Team has heard our cry. (Read: Formula1 Puts Fans First)

Will Fernando Alonso be the one crying this weekend too? The former twin World Champion has worked hard in the last month to regain fitness and start his 2015 campaign in Malaysia, but the best he could be fighting for would be for the back row on the grid. Is Mclaren still out looking for a title sponsor, I wonder! (Read: Gillette Mclaren Honda) And to add salt to his wounds, Ferrari seems to be in top shape to challenge for the podium. But will Raikkonen get the better of Sebastian this time around? (Read: Ferrari vs. Mercedes, Really?)

The Hamilton vs. Rosberg battle seems boring for the moment and the way it is, could Hamilton go ahead and claim victories at the all the races this season? Can he create a world record that we hoped Michael Schumacher or Sebastian Vettel would? As boring as it sounds, this could be a reality – Someone Please Fight Back! (Read: Drive It Like You Stole It)

And in this super dominant and successful phase for Mercedes, Rishi and I pay tribute to Ross Brawn, the brains behind this team and car, he deserves much of the credit. And we wonder, had Mercedes persisted with a certain Michael Schumacher, would he have been on his way to winning his 9th World Championship? Whoops!  (Read: If Schumacher Turned TV Commentator)

After winning the opening banter in Melbourne, Rosberg vs. Vettel could pick up interest if Vettel does take his notebook (what’s that?) and end up attending the debrief with the Mercedes engineers on Friday. Cheeky of Rosberg to invite, will Vettel get cheekier? (Read: Nico Rosberg Debuts On The Inside Line F1 Podcast)

Felipe Nasr and Sauber believe that his performance in Melbourne was good enough for him to skip practice in Sepang as they announced Ferrari backed Marciello (pay-test-development-reserve driver!) to take his place in FP1!

Our LOL moment this week was offered by former Ferrari driver Rubens Barrichello, whereas we are deeply saddened by the loss of the German Grand Prix from the calendar. I wonder what Formula1 fans need to do to have more than 19 races on the calendar. But for now, tune in to the latest episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast.

The Inside Line F1 Podcast is now available on various platforms and I would welcome you to choose your platform to listen to the humour that we add to the otherwise serious and complex sport of Formula1. And while our podcast frequency is weekly, come ‘like‘ the Inside Line F1 Podcast on Facebook and on Google+ for far frequent humorous updates from the world of Formula1.

If you are an Apple user, you can subscribe to the Inside Line F1 Podcast on the iTunes Podcast Store or via our RSS feed (for Android/Windows/Blackberry users). The Inside Line F1 Podcast is also available on TuneIn Radio.

The Inside Line Formula1 Podcast is produced and hosted by Rishi Kapoor and Kunal Shah. Follow us on Twitter and on our SoundcloudDailyMotionSpreakerMixCloud and YouTube channels.

My blog made it to top 25 Formula1 blogs to read, thank you for your reads, likes, shares and listens! Keep Racing!

Thank You Red Bull Racing

Posted on | March 18, 2015 | 2 Comments

(views expressed are personal; long read, so sit back and enjoy this piece with a can of Red Bull)

Thank you Red Bull Racing! Should they actually decide to quit Formula1, I want to be the first fan ever to have thanked Red Bull Racing for their contribution and success in the sport. At times, I did wonder if I was watching Formula1 or Formula Yawn, but in my long term memory, Sebastian Vettel will always be to Red Bull Racing what Michael Schumacher was to Ferrari, well almost! So thank you for all the good years of dominant racing where an energy drinks giant took the mighty manufacturer teams at task and beat them at their game. Thank you for adding and then almost taking the fizz out of the sport! And of course, thank you for the super content pool that you created for us fans! (Read: Mercedes is the new Red Bull Racing and Vettel vs. Schumi For No. 1)

So is Red Bull Racing bullshitting everyone with their threats to quit the sport? No! That would be my clear assessment of the situation. And no, I wouldn’t be entirely shocked if they did. And if they really do, they will take four cars with them. Sigh! Barring Haas F1 Team’s entry, almost every other piece of news in the last two years or so is about teams taking their cars off the much coveted Formula1 grid. (Read: Your Chance To Own An F1 Team)

Red Bull Racing

But it is time to keep emotions aside and assess this threat from a business (for me, Formula1 is first a business!) and then from a technical point of view. Red Bull Energy drinks invests millions of dollars to run their Formula1 operations – Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso. If I could be cheeky, the Formula One Management (FOM) too invests money in the lead team via a ‘preferred’ payment for every season they compete (rumoured to be $70 million or a nearly 80-90% of a mid-field team’s annual budget). For the uninitiated, Red Bull Racing gets paid to race in Formula1, much like Ferrari, Williams, Mclaren and Mercedes. (Read: Racing First, Engineering Later)

The result of this investment is two beautifully designed and coloured Red Bull Racing (oh the CamoBull) cars followed by almost identical in design and colour Toro Rosso ones. The Red Bull Racing driver program relies on these cars to help junior drivers graduate from lower formulae to Formula1 and finally fight for World Championships. Sebastian Vettel is the best summary for Red Bull’s driver program, including his graduation to an ‘iconic’ team like Ferrari! (Read: From Vettel To Lord Vitthal)

While Red Bull Racing is in the business of Motorsport, which involves going racing on the weekends, earning points, winning races and championship, trading drivers, etc. it is ultimately a tool and medium for promoting their parent brand Red Bull on a global sporting platform called Formula1. (Read: Let Us Save Formula1)

And it is this platform that is under threat…from its own self! I don’t know if the new regulations are entirely to blame for this. For years now, Formula1 has delivered single team dominated seasons, which I would label as a product failure. On the marketing front, there has been NO marketing from the sport, so there is little failure there to write about. The result has been declining TV numbers, circuit attendees and migration from traditional European markets to newer markets that seem confused and puzzled by the technical wizardry of the sport. (Read: Someone Please Fight Back)

Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso

From a Red Bull point of view, if the cost of participation and competitiveness has gone up without a significant increase in the followership of the sport (across all media), would it make sense to still keep investing in a sport that appears to be dying a slow death to many? Yes, if there’s a resurrection plan in place. But that too seems to be missing. Ad hoc technical changes are being recommended and pursued at extra cost to the teams and without wondering what the fan actually wants. Sooner or later, those in the business would question if Formula1 was worth their effort, time and more importantly money. (Read: Fed Up Of Rule Changes In Formula1)

Could Red Bull get a better bang for their buck outside of Formula1? I wouldn’t know, but they visionary marketing managers surely would. After all, they are possibly the largest investor in sports (outside of governments) globally and they dislike working with federations (I know from personal experience) where they are unable to have their own way and set their own rules. And this is what leads me to the technical or racing part of their decision. (Read: Can Formula1 Learn From Rush?)

Red Bull Racing won four titles on the trot from 2010 till 2013 in an Adrian Newey designed super car at the hands of Sebastian Vettel. They pushed the design regulations to the limit (and sometimes outside) to ensure that they were ahead of the competition by a mile and won with a comfortable margin. Now they have neither Vettel nor Newey at their disposal and Renault’s power trains are un-power train like. (Read: Red Bull Racing Need Wings)

But is their public invite to the FIA to ‘equalise’ the sport justified? In Red Bull Racing’s years of reign, several innovative aerodynamic solutions that were implemented were subsequently banned (eg: exhaust blown diffuser) to slow them down and try and let the others ‘catch up’. As a sport, I disagree with the view that the FIA should step in to balance the performance gaps. But as an entertainment, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that they should. An increasing number of fans are bored of single team dominated seasons and will sooner or later switch to other far more entertaining sports on TV (golf?). The number of fans who see Formula1 as a sport of technical brilliance is dwindling, so there could be only a few who agree with my view. (Read: Formula1 Puts Fans First) The world can not be without a strong global platform for motorsport, is this where Formula1 has given Formula E a chance?

This year, the engine regulations are so tightly written, that it is impossible for Renault, Red Bull’s engine supplier, to find a solution to fight the might of the Mercedes power unit. In fact, going by the reactions from Red Bull’s management, it would be safe to assume that Renault have lost further ground over the winter. (Read: Hola V6 Turbo, Gracias V8s)

But Renault seem to have lost, where Ferrari seem to have gained over Mercedes. The French manufacturer seems uncomfortable with the new hybrid regulations, despite being one of the most vocal manufacturer to ask the FIA for ‘road relevant’ technology. With the regulations frozen till 2020 (in parts), Red Bull seems to have lost faith that Renault can make progress and help deliver an engine that will allow them to challenge for wins in the near future. (Read: Engine No-ise)

Sebastian Vettel - 2013 Indian Grand Prix

So what does Red Bull Racing do? They know that becoming a customer to Ferrari and Mercedes isn’t the best solution to beating their factory teams (like Mclaren realised) nor is joining hands with Honda (for the moment). No wonder Massa questioned whether his Williams had the same engine as Mercedes in Australia. (Read: Formula One Is Funny)

Could Red Bull Racing develop their own engines? Sure, they could attempt to, but there’s no guarantee that the huge investment will yield desired results given the complexity of the hybrid regulations. Fundamentally, Red Bull Racing has always been a chassis manufacturer who ‘bought’ engines from an engine supplier. Manufacturing an engine would be non-core for their operations.

The other option for them is to lure an Audi or any other engine manufacturer to the sport, just like Mclaren did. But the inconsistency in future regulations and Honda’s struggle to cope with the new ones could well caution a new supplier before entering the sport. So what does Red Bull Racing do?

Issue a threat! Hope that the FIA, FOM and every other stakeholder takes notice and understands that if Red Bull has reevaluating their commitment to the sport that has given then global fame and recognition, there is probably a desperate need to correct the course of self destruction that the sport is on. (Read: Formula One or Formula Rookie?)

If rumours are to be believed, Audi is keen to buy Red Bull Racing whereas Toro Rosso have confirmed Renault’s interest in their facilities. If the right price was to be offered, I wouldn’t be surprised if Red Bull would sell and settle with a load of cash in their bank accounts. After all, this is what business is all about – you buy cheap (they bought Jaguar after all!), grow the brand, increase the value and exit with a profit. (Read: Formula1 Needs Car Manufacturers)

Ferrari have issued ‘quit’ threats in the past and have acted on none. But one should keep in mind that Ferrari’s biggest brand marketing campaign is their Formula1 team, which is why they sacked a load of people last year (including Montezemolo) when the team started underperforming. For Red Bull, Formula1 is one of their key marketing associations, but not the only. They have several other individual and team-led sporting associations that will continue to deliver value to the brand. (Read: Formula1 Needs Better Marketing)

The only piece in the Red Bull jigsaw puzzle that I am yet to figure is Red Bull’s investment on bringing the Red Bull Ring (the A1 Ring) back on the calendar as the Austrian Grand Prix. But I do believe that this would be a somewhat insignificant piece in the puzzle that the Red Bull management would be trying to solve all season long. (Read: The A1 Ring Is Back)

My views will either be subscribed to or spat upon depending how you view the sport – a business or a sport. Either way, thank you Red Bull.

My blog made it to top 25 Formula1 blogs to read, thank you for your reads, likes, shares and listens! Keep Racing!

Inside Line F1 Podcast – Formula One or Formula Rookie?

Posted on | March 17, 2015 | No Comments

The 2015 Australian Grand Prix was a rookie affair at best. Sainz, Verstappen and Nasr were impressive to say the least, but that is where the rookie affair ended. Manor’s shoddy attempt, Mclaren-Honda’s almost no-go, drive-to-score points and even the much practiced pit-stops were absolutely non-Formula1 grade. Hence the question, is this Formula One or Formula Rookie? (Read: Formula One Is Funny)

One shouldn’t be too surprised if Sauber revealed that they had hired a rookie lawyer (well, a pay-lawyer) to fight their case against their pay-driver from last year, Giedo Van Der Garde. After all, this would be in line with the team’s policy for the 2015 Formula1 Season. And in line with the sport’s motto based on Darwin’s Theory of Evolution – ‘survival of the fittest’. (Read: Will F1 Survive Without Bernie?)

But is the sport fit enough to survive in its current state? I would think not. Dwindling grid, expensive and almost incomprehensible technology and artificial racing could almost spell doom for the sport; that is if Red Bull Racing doesn’t do so already. (Read: Bernie I Shrunk The Grid and Racing First, Engineering Later)

2015 Australian GP: Formula One or Formula Rookie?

The energy drinks manufacturer has threatened to sell-off their teams by the end of this season should there not be a change in regulations to ‘equalise’ the sport, something that the FIA often did when Red Bull Racing stomped their way to multiple championship wins by interpreting the regulations far more innovatively than the competition. The double diffuser, exhaust blown diffuser, etc. saw their way out of the sport due to the FIA’s intervention to stop Red Bull’s bull-run! And this isn’t true for Red Bull alone, Ferrari, Williams and other teams have been subjected to the FIA’s unfair policing in the past too! (Read: Mercedes Is The New Red Bull)

Would it be fair if the FIA intervened to ‘correct’ the current disparity in the sport? For me, the answer isn’t an entirely easy one. Mercedes seemed like the only team in Formula1 spec in the opening round of this season, so penalizing them for playing to the regulations would be unfair. But I guess what you and I think don’t matter, because Bernie Ecclestone certainly thinks that the Mercedes advantage should be surrendered and that too via a fairly stupid solution. But that’s Bernie! (Read: Blame It Bernie?)

But Red Bull Racing’s departure may not be a big loss for the sport if Audi and Renault (for Toro Rosso) replace them (as rumoured). The sport could do better with more manufacturers on the grid (Read: F1 Needs More Car Manufacturers), but I believe that the inconsistency in regulations and Honda’s inability to cope up with the current hybrid regulations despite being at it for more than a year could be a deterrent for new entrants. But if you’re still interested, here’s more – Your Chance To Own An F1 Team.

Lastly, we pick the ‘Rookie of the Race’ from Australia while hoping that when Formula1 returns for the 2015 Malaysian Grand Prix, we won’t have a truncated grid yet again. Tune in to the latest episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast even if you tuned off the Formula1 broadcast for the opening round! We promise you more than a few laughs!

PS: Our previous episodes ‘Oh No! Alonso!’ and ‘Helmet Ban(ter)’ received some good comments and listens, super thank you to all our listeners!

The Inside Line F1 Podcast is now available on various platforms and I would welcome you to choose your platform to listen to the humour that we add to the otherwise serious and complex sport of Formula1. And while our podcast frequency is weekly, come ‘like‘ the Inside Line F1 Podcast on Facebook and on Google+ for far frequent humorous updates from the world of Formula1.

If you are an Apple user, you can subscribe to the Inside Line F1 Podcast on the iTunes Podcast Store or via our RSS feed (for Android/Windows/Blackberry users). The Inside Line F1 Podcast is also available on TuneIn Radio.

The Inside Line Formula1 Podcast is produced and hosted by Rishi Kapoor and Kunal Shah. Follow us on Twitter and on our SoundcloudDailyMotionSpreakerMixCloud and YouTube channels.

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