cars

RCM Gobstopper II At Goodwood

The Goodwood Festival of Speed is underway now and this year’s lineup includes the heroic Gobstopper II from Roger Clark Motorsport.

Check out Goodwood Live if you don’t have the pleasure of being there.

Video courtesy of BalticMotorSport.

The Future Look Of Formula 1?

Recently, some very interesting design concepts for the future of Formula 1 cars have been popping up.

The discussion of closed cockpits has been a hot button issue amongst the FIA and fans. While a roof or canopy would improve safety during a heavy impact, it could also increase the likelihood of a driver becoming trapped inside the car. Beyond the safety concerns, there’s also the question of looks which is still an important aspect of the sport. The allure of danger and full exposure to the elements with an open cockpit have been part of Formula 1 since the beginning and many including the drivers would like to keep things the way they are. But what if the rules did change and closed cockpits became part of the regulations? Dutch designer Andries van Overbeeke has created a solution in stunning fashion.

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Wearing the iconic Marlboro dayglo and white livery, this McLaren concept could be what the future of Formula 1 looks like.

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Every aspect of the car has been reimagined including a curved rear wing to accommodate the height and wider shape of the closed cockpit.

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In black, the design is even more menacing. Much like a fighter jet, which F1 cars are so often compared, the canopy would be fully glass for maximum visibility. With the body work of today’s F1 already surrounding so much of the driver’s helmet, this concept doesn’t appear to sacrifice any visibility. While I would prefer to see Formula 1 stick with an open cockpit, something like van Overbeeke’s creation would be ideal should the regulations change.

Alternatively, say the cars retain their open cockpit, what might that look like in 40 years time? British 3D artist Nathan Dearsley has an answer – the McLaren MP6/P.

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According to the artist, prototypes of the MP6/P were tested by humans as far back as the early 90’s but were too radical for the track designs of the time. I love a cool backstory.

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The aero design is “purposely primitive” to increase overtaking opportunities. The tradeoff is unpredictable results during heaving braking.

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There you have it, two very different visions of the future of Formula 1.

It may be interesting if someday the regulations made a closed cockpit optional. That way we could see greater diversity amongst the grid. Imagine the variations in aero configurations on the cars? Ultimately, the sport’s regulations need to relax. Formula 1 is too strict and innovation (I hate to use that word) has come to a standstill as every team is required to fit within the mold of the regulations. Imagine multiple engine formulas, perhaps V6 turbos and a return to V8s and the option to run closed or open cockpits? It could be brilliant!

Photos courtesy of Andries van Overbeeke & Nathan Dearsley.

83rd 24 Hours Of Le Mans

Porsche’s weekend-only drivers showed up the WEC team, the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO would’ve been better off competing in LMGTE Am, Patrick Dempsey wound up on the podium and Fox Sports completely botched the race coverage. It was everything Formula 1 isn’t, it was the 83rd 24 Hours of Le Mans!

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The WEC is experiencing another golden era and has once again taken its place on the top step of international motorsport. This weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans proved to be another classic and saw Porsche dominate with a record 17th win. The Number 19 919 Hybrid driven by the Le Mans-only trio of Nico Hulkenberg, Earl Bamber and Nick Tandy completed 395 laps of the Circuit de la Sarthe. It was a statement win over Audi who struggled with reliability issues throughout the race. The number 7 R18 e-tron quattro of Marcel Fassler, Andre Lotterer and Benoit Treluyer finished third, behind the Number 17 919 Hybrid of Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber and Brendon Hartley in second. As with any running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, maintaining the race lead was a chess match and it seemed likely that the Number 17 Porsche would stand victorious, but a penalty for overtaking under a yellow flag may have been the decider for Mark Webber’s first victory at la Sarthe.

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The real standout of the show was Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg who has proven to be an unbelievable talent time and time again and still has yet to get a top drive in Formula 1. It was only his first running in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and likely won’t be his last. The WEC has become the ideal landing spot for Formula 1 drivers who have increasingly become disenchanted with the series. Racing drivers talk and Webber has done his diligence recruiting throughout the F1 paddock. His friends Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso could wind up in the WEC if things at McLaren don’t turn around. Alonso was just quoted last week saying that Le Mans is more fun to drive than F1 and with Hulkenberg’s success, the allure of endurance racing will have many in F1 considering their options.

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With Porsche’s success and the return of Ford next year, Ferrari, Mercedes and McLaren will certainly be considering runs at the WEC as well.

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If you chose not to spend the €9.99 on the WEC official live stream, you were limited to Fox Sports’s fragmented coverage which could only be described as “abysmal”. The Fox Sports broadcast team lead by Speed alum Bob Varsha, was ideally put on mute in favor of the voice of Le Mans, John Hindhaugh on the Radio Le Mans live stream. Though Fox Sports Go was supposed to have nonstop coverage of the event, the website and app experienced freezing and loading issues. On cable, which was a Where’s Waldo-type of channel navigating experience, the final hours of the race were interrupted by soccer coverage. When it comes to international motorsport, American broadcasters just don’t get it.

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Another year is a long wait until the teams are back at la Sarthe. Luckily the WEC is less than halfway through its season with the 6 Hours of Nürburgring on August 30. My hope is that as the sport continues to attract a larger American audience. seamless, more available coverage will follow. That’s certainly more likely to happen than Formula 1 can get its act together.

Photos courtesy of WEC and FIA.

 

Shades Of Grey

McLaren Honda are reported to unveil a new livery for next weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix through the remainder of the 2015 season. It’s been described as “shades of grey” with “no chrome or silver” in a bid to distance the team away from their previous engine supplier Mercedes-Benz.

Jenson Button on track.

“Shades of grey” seems a much better descriptor of Ron Dennis’s personality who earlier this year said that McLaren would not be donning the iconic dayglo red/white or orange liveries because “why the hell do we (McLaren) want to go backwards?”.

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Interesting.

Meanwhile, Honda’s Indycar looks more like a “McLaren” than the MP4-30.

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Personally, I think McLaren Honda needs to adopt more of the dayglo red that adorns the current livery. Formula 1’s grid is starting to look like a black and white film and if they really want to stand proud with new engine supplier Honda, they should stop trying to blend in with Mercedes and Force India.

McLaren have somewhat lost their brand identity within the sport and a fresh, exciting livery would be just the what the team needs as it continues to progress with the new power units. Dennis like so many of his counterparts needs to get with the times.

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.

Original Runduce Imprezas

It doesn’t get much better than these classics, the Original Runduce GDBs.

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It’s a coin toss as to which car is better. Where looks are concerned, it’s hard to argue against Voltex aero, but the STI in the foreground is sporting a very unique and slightly insane 500 HP HKS twin-turbo EJ25.

The twin-turbo STI was wearing Voltex aero and up for sale on Global Auto back in 2010. These two make me seriously miss the golden era of Japanese demo cars, before everyone was on Rocket Bunny’s payroll.

Photo courtesy of Original Runduce.

2015 Bahrain Grand Prix

Last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix proved to be one of the most exciting races of 2014 when the Mercedes teammates battled head-to-head, resulting in a win for Lewis Hamilton. Sunday’s event didn’t have quite the same spectacle, but the chess match between Mercedes and Ferrari is becoming ever more interesting as the sport heads to Europe.

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Much of the talk this week centered around accusations of Hamilton’s strategy made by Nico Rosberg following the Chinese Grand Prix. In an effort to save his tires, Hamilton reduced his pace putting Rosberg on the defensive to a charging Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari. It was a clear sign that not only was Rosberg beginning to succumb to the pressure, but Ferrari were bringing the fight to Mercedes.

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A much more reserved Rosberg showed up in Bahrain this weekend and it was clear he would need to let his driving do the talking. After an excellent showing in qualifying on Saturday, it was Vettel who shared the front row with Hamilton in pole. Rosberg and Kimi Raikkonen rounded out the top 4. Contrary to what many, including Mercedes had suggested, both drivers followed the same strategy in Sunday’s race.

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The start saw Ferrari on the offensive with Raikkonen outpacing Rosberg for 3rd. The remainder of the race would be a tire strategy battle that saw Vettel taking a similar course to the Mercedes drivers doing 2 stints on the softs and finishing on the mediums. Raikkonen on the other hand ran his second stint on the mediums and finished on the softs. It was a strategy that ultimately paid off brilliantly and put the Ferrari driver in a position to exploit Rosberg, who cooked his brakes into turn 1 on lap 56. Raikkonen who was outpacing both Mercedes at that point finished 2nd, his first podium of the season. Vettel’s luck wasn’t as good and after a misstep off track damaged his front wing causing the German to head back to the pits for a replacement. The stop left Vettel behind the Williams of Valtteri Bottas who was having none of the Ferrari. Vettel’s mistake ultimately had him finishing in 5th.

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Ferrari executed a brilliant strategy with Raikkonen and his unbelievable pace on the medium tires made for a well deserved podium finish. In many ways Mercedes dodged a bullet on Sunday when during the final lap, Hamilton began having brake issues. Reliability has been a factor for Mercedes before and with Ferrari’s pace, they will be there to exploit each and every opportunity as the season progresses. For every bit as good as Vettel and Raikkonen have been so far this season, Maurizio Arrivabene and James Allison are also hugely responsible for the Ferrari turnaround.

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F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain

Elsewhere on the track it was more of a GP2 race than anything that corresponded with the battle up front. Apart from Williams, none of the other teams have been able to match the pace of Ferrari in an attempt to challenge the World Champions. After qualifying 6th, Felipe Massa started the race from pit lane but managed to finish 10th after an excellent recovery drive. Daniel Riccardo showed some pace in the Red Bull who’s Renault power unit went kaput meters before the finish line. Christian Horner and Adrian Newey must be loving this very public display of Renault’s “reliability”. You have to feel for Ricciardo who had one hell of a 2014 season. Now he has the opportunity to lead Red Bull and the team are threatening to pull out of the sport completely.

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F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain

Fernando Alonso on track.

In a very predictable, no less disappointing series of events, Jenson Button was unable to start Sunday’s race due to an ERS failure. McLaren Honda said that had Button started he would have been unable to finish the Bahrain Grand Prix. It’s been an uphill battle for McLaren Honda who have somehow managed to become one of the most likable teams in Formula 1 purely because of how well they’re rolling with the punches. As Red Bull are all too willing to complain to anyone who will listen, the Woking outfit have kept their heads down and steadily improved their pace every race weekend. As any fan of the sport will tell you, seconds equal years in Formula 1 and there’s something to be said about Fernando Alonso finishing just one place (11th) outside of the points on Sunday. What McLaren Honda need is testing and although that won’t happen, the European leg of the season should tell a very different story as the team receives upgrades from the factory and continues to dial in the new chassis.

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Overall the Bahrain Grand Prix was an interesting strategic exercise for Mercedes and Ferrari. How fantastic did the sparks look on track? They’re gimmicky yes, but no doubt improve the look of Formula 1. The flyaway races are over for now as the teams head back to Europe for the summer. Can you believe Monaco is nearly a month away? It’s hard to believe how fast this season is moving. See you in Barcelona at the Spanish Grand Prix in 3 weeks.

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Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.

Nothing To See Here – 2015 Chinese Grand Prix

What can be said about today’s Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix? To be honest, I could barely get through the thing.

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There’s been endless talk over “the show” that Formula 1 and the FIA are putting in front of fans on race day. At best, it’s a technical exercise where manufacturers can strut their stuff and fan favorite Lewis Hamilton can cruise his way to uncontested victories. At worst, it’s a case of mistaken identities and a fanbase who views the sport with rose-tinted glasses, only too quick to hark back to Hunt-Lauda or Prost-Senna as McLaren barely manage to finish races in 2015. The reality is Formula 1 lies somewhere in the middle of those two extremes, but if things carry on as they have, the circus will continue to lose its place of relevance on motorsport’s biggest stage. Today’s Chinese Grand Prix didn’t exactly help matters and as the cars rolled through the finish behind the safety car, the over-bloated, over-funded F1 machine was hoping you had not decided to change the channel already.

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For American fans, NBCSN’s coverage offers absolutely nothing at this point. We’re well aware that Will Buxton and Steve Matchett have plenty to offer from their extensive databases of Formula 1 knowledge but the network’s decision to repress that knowledge has left us with cringeworthy impersonations of Sherlock Holmes from David Hobbs and Leigh Diffey flapping on about the weather and the divorce of Max Verstappen’s parents – honestly Leigh, who the hell cares? With NBC’s deep pockets, you would think they could employ the very best commentators Formula 1 has to offer in a bid to really sell it to an emerging American audience. Instead it’s SPEED’s coverage with a new coat of paint and Diffey turned up to 11.

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Mercedes were back to form this weekend with Hamilton and Nico Rosberg leading qualifying and the German missing pole by just 0.4 seconds. From Rosberg’s point of view things have to be unbelievably frustrating as the team continue to favor Hamilton. For everyone else it’s clear that Rosberg just doesn’t have the same elite skills that Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso possess. Today was an easy win for Hamilton who lead Rosberg by 5 seconds for most of the race.

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GP CINA F1/2015

Ferrari looked strong on the back of a surprise Malaysian Grand Prix win 2 weeks ago. Kimi Raikkonen mucked up in qualifying again on Saturday but had the pace all race long. His transmissions about the woeful McLarens made for some of the few high points of Sunday’s race. Vettel meanwhile looked strong in qualifying and put the pressure on Rosberg. It will be very interesting to see how the Ferraris do at the slower, tighter European tracks.

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Williams rounded out the top 6 with Felipe Massa still having the advantage over teammate Valtteri Bottas. Elsewhere on the field it was a mixed bag of reliability issues, driver errors and more Pastor Maldonado acting as a human chicane for Jenson Button in the McLaren.

Fernando Alonso.

It really is shocking that Honda have botched this Formula 1 return quite so badly. Has Ron Dennis completely given up on finding a title sponsor and showing us all that “new” livery? Where is all that 650S money going?

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The true embarrassment of today however was the utter incompetence of the trackside marshals, attempting to return Max Verstappen’s Toro Rosso to pit lane, after the car’s Renault engine blew. To the delight of perhaps Red Bull alone, the stranded car resulted in the safety car being deployed with 3 laps to go and one of the most chaotic and dimwitted displays the sold out crowd has likely seen, as the marshals managed to inflict as much damage to the Toro Rosso as possible while performing a 1000-point turn getting it into pit lane. Could this display support an argument about the much larger problem of flyaway races to countries with no motorsports pedigree? Absolutely. But all of these marshals should have been briefed and trained so there are really no excuses. If anyone wants to argue that point, I urge you to watch the Monaco Grand Prix and see how long it takes them to remove a car from track. With the safety car in a lap sooner, we could have been treated to one of the most exciting finishes in years.

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Formula 1 feels like a bad remake right now. The set pieces are certainly more spectacular, but any semblance of a plot is difficult to find and the cast really isn’t that good. As long as it makes money at the box office, it’s done the job. The cynic in me says the show’s over and once we wrap up the Hamilton-Vettel era, Formula 1 will well and truly be done. The optimist in me says I’ll look back on all of this with fond memories as we all do with seasons gone by. Ultimately if Formula 1 has any chance of surviving this rut, it really needs to figure out what it is and what it ultimately wants to become because the rest of us are packing our bags.

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.

‘Fast & Furious’ Is To Thank

Furious 7 is out this weekend and it will likely be the last (good) entry in the Fast & Furious franchise.

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I’ve heard the departure of Paul Walker’s Brian O’Conner is handled with particular care so it should be a fitting sendoff for the character and the actor. It seems with any film series, the longer it goes, the more nostalgic we all feel about its different entries. While I have my favorites and least favorites in the series, 2 Fast 2 Furious stands out in particular, not because of the film but because of what I encountered on my way into seeing it and how that has impacted everything since.

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I remember 2 Fast 2 Furious being a big deal because it was the sequel to a film many people considered a cult thing. Sure car people loved it, but the general masses had no interest in blow-off valves, nitrous or 10 second cars. The local movie theater was doing a special promotion for the film’s release and upon reaching the theater’s front doors, I was greeted by a silhouette which will be ingrained in my memory forever.

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I had only laid eyes on the Subaru Impreza WRX one other time before and it was at the Cincinnati Auto Show in 2001. The car hadn’t yet gone on sale in America but Subaru were beginning to take orders and promote the turbocharged, road going rally car. I remember sitting in the driver’s seat, steering wheel in my left hand, gear stick in my right, transfixed on the OEM boost gauge – an optional extra. I proudly told my dad I would have one and a year later I was once again greeted by the same World Rally Blue WRX headed into 2 Fast 2 Furious. The theater was raffling the car away to some lucky owner who has probably since ruined it, crashed it or both. I remember telling my friend Ben who is close friend to this day how much I wanted that car. Half an hour later as the Universal Pictures logo morphed into a gear stick to David Banner’s ‘Like A Pimp’, I was still thinking about the WRX outside.

It’s funny how things work out sometimes. Had I not seen 2 Fast 2 Furious at that theater on that night, I may have never cemented my love for the Subaru WRX. The Fast & Furious series is a generational benchmark. It’s shaped the way so many of us in our 20’s and 30’s think about cars and about action movies. The original is by far the most quoted movie in my social circle and amongst car enthusiasts everywhere. Say “I live my life a quarter mile at a time” or “no one likes the tuna here” and people are immediately in on the joke. Say what you will about the ridiculous plots or over the top characters, the Fast & Furious series is a commentary about how much cars can mean to people and how they can bring people together. Cars are where I found my closest friends and have been a constant source of happiness in my life.

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My love of cars has always been there but in so many ways it was the Fast & Furious series that made them a part of my life rather than an admiration from afar. 14 years later, I’ll be driving my WRX to see Furious 7.

Photos courtesy of Universal.

2015 Malaysian Grand Prix

The Malaysian Grand Prix has always been able to provide an interesting Formula 1 Grand Prix and Sunday’s bout between Mercedes and Ferrari was true to form.

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Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Malaysian Grand Prix - Race Day - Sepang, Malaysia

Unless you’re a Mercedes supporter, most fans of the sport have probably had enough of seeing the Silver Arrows of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg winning every race. A new face on the podium’s top step is exactly what Formula 1 needed on Sunday and ironically Sebastian Vettel, in a Ferrari was the man to do it.

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After a hellacious 2014 season and a complete reorganization of the team, Scuderia Ferrari have come out fighting in 2015 and may be one of the few opponents able to challenge Mercedes’s dominance. It was 2013 the last time a Ferrari won a Formula 1 Grand Prix so a collective sigh of relief was definitely in order for the team on Sunday. Vettel executed a solid drive and harked back to his World Championship Red Bull days by creating a dominant gap ahead of the field. After a safety car early in the race and a botched strategy by Mercedes, Hamilton had little chance of catching the German.

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Vettel managed to win in only his second race for the Scuderia and fulfilled “life long dream.” I doubt it’s the last will we see of Vettel or Ferrari standing at the top of the podium this season.

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Hamilton managed 2nd with Rosberg rounding out the podium in 3rd and interestingly today was the first we saw of a very calculated, clinical Mercedes team becoming slightly unraveled. The trouble started following the safety car in which Hamilton’s strategy resulted in Vettel creating that massive gap. This was followed by a conflict in tire choice between the driver and his team and some mixed radio messages from Paddy Lowe. The message which Hamilton clearly wasn’t supposed to hear suggested a third pitstop before the end of the race. This didn’t happen and left a confused Hamilton frustrated with the team and finishing off the top step in what was shaping to be another easy win for Mercedes.

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Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Malaysian Grand Prix - Race Day - Sepang, Malaysia

Elsewhere on the field Toro Rosso continued to make the Red Bull factory team look very bad. The Red Bull-Renault public feud continued through the week and you can’t help but feel bad for Daniel Ricciardo who had such an excellent finish to last season. Now the team’s clear number one and he’s treated to a front row seat of Christian Horner’s public tantrum. Red Bull are continuing to dig their own grave with the way they’re handling the Renault situation and fans are quickly growing tired of listening. Renault on the other hand called Red Bull racing “liars” and are looking to buy a team of their own, severing ties with Milton Keynes outfit completely. That soap opera will continue throughout the season no doubt.

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An excellent drive from Kimi Raikkonen who started in 11th after a botched qualifying on Saturday and a tire rupture early in Sunday’s race. He managed 4th overall which further proves just how much Ferrari have their act together this season. Some inter-team battles from Williams and Force India kept the midfield busy and an truly woeful performance from McLaren ensured neither driver was able to finish the Grand Prix.

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Fernando Alonso made his season debut Sunday after sitting out in Australia, while recovering from a concussion during testing. During media day there were conflicting reports from Alonso’s version of what happened and team’s. Bizarrely, Alonso blamed the crash on a steering lockup and denied wind had anything to do with it – the reason McLaren stated for the crash. It’s all very strange what’s happening at one of the sport’s winningest teams. On a positive note, everyone involved with McLaren including the drivers are firm in their support of the team. Expectations at the start of this season must have been extremely low.

Jenson Button.

Neither MP4-30 was able to finish Sunday’s main event and you have to wonder what Honda have spent the last 2 years doing? It’s a shock to see such a big name come so ill prepared to motor sport’s biggest stage. Things can only go up at this point and I would expect to see McLaren become more competitive by the start of the European season, but that’s still 6 weeks away.

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Was Rosberg standing off to the side as Hamilton, Vettel and Eddie Jordan sat and chatted during the podium interviews not ridiculously awkward? Rosberg has really taken a lot of heat and continues to. In the eyes of the predominately British F1 media, Hamilton can do no wrong and that leaves Rosberg constantly having to justify every move. Maybe he truly isn’t one for the spotlight but that podium interview was painful. Also, what’s up with Vettel and Hamilton all buddy-buddy now? Is Hamilton suddenly okay being friendly with Vettel now that he himself is a multiple World Champion or is it yet another excuse to make his teammate feel unwelcome?

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It was great to see Ferrari back on form at Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix. Now the teams head to Shanghai for the Chinese Grand Prix in 2 weeks – stay tuned.

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.