Kamui Kobayashi to drive season opener with Andretti
16 Nov 2017 @ 08:50 am
Welcome to It Only Takes E Minute, where Kamui Kobayashi has been signed up to race the season opener in Hong Kong.
Former F1 racer Kamui Kobayashi will join the Andretti team for the first round of this year’s Formula E championship, lining up alongside Antonio Felix da Costa. He’s not expected to run the full season, but a one off appearance should be great for the driver, the team and of course, the fans.
Kobayashi has driven for Toyota and Sauber in Formula One, but has more recently been battling in the World Endurance Championship, taking pole at Le Mans this year.
Now, he’s got a new challenge, and the Japanese driver says: “I will be going to the race weekend without testing, which is not an easy thing to be honest but the team has given me all the support, so no worries at all. Andretti is one of the world’s most popular racing families and I am so excited to have my Formula E debut race under his name.”
CEO of the team Michael Andretti says: “We are very fortunate to have a driver of Kobayashi’s calibre in the car to start the season. He has shown what he can do in both Formula 1 and WEC, making Formula E a perfect next step.”
Agag warns Formula E could leave UK due to Brexit tax concerns
16 Nov 2017 @ 08:49 am
You're listening to It Only Takes E Minute, and we briefly have to touch upon politics amid Brexit concerns.
CEO of Formula E, Alejandro Agag, has warned that he may be forced to take the sport out of the UK overnight if the Brexit deal isn't satisfactory in terms of tax and employment clauses. He said: "We have a lot of expats that work in the company, and a lot of our contracts come from the European Union in terms of sponsorship, so if there is not a deal in terms of tax and employment, we will leave."
Currently, about 100 staff are employed at the London headquarters for the sport, with Agag supposing they are half of them British and the other half from outside the UK. Whilst Agag would prefer to stay in London, he said: "We probably would leave overnight. We could make a decision in one day and then leave. We're looking at different options. Maybe Holland, maybe Monaco. Some nearby place in the European Union."
His specific concerns around tax are that if Brexit doesn't sort a deal that keeps withholding tax rates low, then his revenue would drop and it would be crazy not to avoid that situation. As he says: "It's a no-brainer."
HUGO BOSS announce partnership with Formula E, after dropping Mercedes F1
13 Nov 2017 @ 09:23 am
This is It Only Takes E Minute – keeping you up to date with the FIA’s electric racing series, Formula E. Today, Formula E organisers launched their new partnership with global fashion designer HUGO BOSS, ahead of the upcoming season that kicks off in Hong Kong in December. HUGO BOSS are sponsoring the sport with trackside banners, and will stick their logo on Formula E staff uniforms, as well as the demo car itself.
CEO of Formula E, Alejandro Agag, who posed in a natty suit to celebrate the launch, said: “As the first Official Apparel Partner of the series, we look forward to seeing the dynamic style and innovation on show that HUGO BOSS is renowned for.”
Mark Langer of HUGO BOSS says: “When we first encountered Formula E, we immediately saw its potential.” The clothes they provide will be made from sustainable and recycled materials, starting in the Formula E paddock but eventually extending to all their clothing lines. The company focuses on design and sustainability and believe they’ve found a good partner to do the same in Formula E.
F1 Debrief - Prodding a bear with a stick
25 Jun 2017 @ 10:17 am
Coming up on this show, we discuss three part rage, another change of attitude and several surprising top threes. It was a packed race so naturally we have a packed podcast full of discussion about the top three on the podium in Baku, and many of the events that allowed them to get there.
We talk about Vettel and Hamilton's incident, the merits of Lance Stroll being near the top and Jolyon Palmer being at the bottom, as well as the woes of Sauber and Force India. There's also time for a discussion about Ricciardo's race win compared to Verstappen's disappointing early exit, as well as a positive message for everyone to take on board.
We hear from Lukeh, Steven, Pat and Rob and encourage you to let us know your thoughts about the events in Baku as well as any other important F1 matters.
F1 Debrief - Insanity personified in a circle
26 May 2017 @ 10:02 am
Following the feedback we received after our last show, we have attempted to rectify the situation by getting the experts in to talk all about the Indy 500. If you've never seen any IndyCar racing before, like at least one half of the Sidepodcast pair, then pay attention as Pat and Lukeh guide us all through what to expect over the next couple of days.
From Fernando Alonso's motivation to his performance so far, we cover the triple crown of motorsport, the accident suffered by Sébastien Bourdais, the teammates lining up to help out of F1 star, as well as Alexander Rossi's about face with regards to his attitude towards his new favourite sport.
There's also time to discuss what happens when it rains at Indy, the big bold pre-race spectacle and of course, make a couple of predictions. Our resident experts also promise to come back and debrief the race with us once it's all over and done with.
The Great Debates - Series 1 Omnibus
1 May 2017 @ 12:05 pm
Hello and welcome to a new mini series from Sidepodcast, The Great Debates. Formula One is surrounded by endless discussion, speculation, rumour and opinions, but there are some subjects that are more deep rooted than others, some that go right to the heart of what makes F1 the spectacle that it is today – for good, or for bad.
This series, we aim to investigate some of those debates and whilst not definitively answering the questions, at least making sure they are asked. These shows were originally broadcast individually across seven consecutive days, but are gathered here in one omnibus edition for easy listening.
Although the shows may be over, the debates will no doubt continue. Let me know your thoughts on any of the topics covered, as well as on any potential debates for future series, just head on over to the contact form or get in touch in the usual ways!
The Great Debates - Can you compare F1 eras?
27 Apr 2017 @ 06:00 am
Hello there, F1 friends, and welcome to The Great Debates, the latest mini series from Sidepodcast. The intention here is to shine a light on topics that cause conversation amongst everyone involved in F1, always have done and likely always will do. We have covered six topics in our journey so far and now we’re on to our seventh and final debate, and it’s a big one.
There are two specific things about Formula One that, when combined, make it both wonderful and unique – the jam-packed history of the sport dating back to the 1950 inauguration of the world championship and even before that, alongside the ever-increasing pace of change that keeps the sport moving forward.
However, these two brilliant aspects converge upon each other to create one of the hot topics of Formula One that will never be resolved: Can you compare F1 eras? By that, I mean, does it mean anything to say Lewis Hamilton has equalled Ayrton Senna’s record of three world championships? Or that Rubens Barrichello was one of the best drivers ever because he started the most races? Or that Michael Schumacher is a better champion than Juan Manuel Fangio because he has two more titles to his name?
F1 is so bound in data, statistics, facts and figures, that it feels like you can make statements like these and argue your case. But the sport is so different now than when it started, so different now than ten years ago, even.
Senna battled hard for his championships, Hamilton has had a couple of dominant seasons with more time each year to make the difference. Barrichello started young and stayed a long time in F1, but in a series that was expanding its calendar as each year went by allowing for the race starts to rack up. Schumacher was an incredible driver but moulded a team around himself, employed some questionable tactics and may or may not have had some assistance from the governing body along the way. Suddenly they don’t seem so comparable at all.
And yet, they are all doing the same job – driving as fast as possible in cars that are designed to go as fast as possible given certain conditions. They’re in the same sport, and more than anything, we want to compare them, to discuss the relative merits and disappointments, to decide who really was the fastest driver or the greatest champion, the best qualifier or the worst teammate to have.
Even within the same year, things get tricky. It’s a well-known adage that if you want to see how a driver is doing, you can only compare him to his teammate. Same car, same machinery, same situations. That doesn’t even bear fruit, though, as there are other things to consider: team orders, favourable strategies, just that cursed bad luck that plagues some drivers more than others. Comparing teammates on a very basic level is hard enough, let alone crossing the boundaries of seasons and even decades.
But it’s human nature to look for the story behind the achievements. What would the youngest F1 driver mean if he wasn’t breaking a record set by previous drivers? How can we relate to the four consecutive championship wins by Sebastian Vettel if he wasn’t standing on the backs of giants? With such a vast history to draw from, despite its differences, it’s hard not to want to pit one success story against another, or analyse failures based on what’s happened in the past. It may not be accurate but it helps us process the information in front of us. It helps fuel the debates that have taken place and will continue well beyond the end of F1 as we know it.
So in the end, I think the answer is no, you can’t compare F1 eras, but oh boy, that isn’t going to stop us from trying.
That’s all for this episode, and this mini series. The Great Debates has come to an end, although the debates themselves will rumble on indefinitely, I have no doubt. I hope you’ve enjoyed the show, do let me know your feelings about any of the topics discussed within, just visit sidepodcast.com/contact to air your views. Enjoy the conversation, enjoy the sport, and thank you for listening.
The Great Debates - What is the ideal length of an F1 season?
26 Apr 2017 @ 06:00 am
This is The Great Debates, a mini series by Sidepodcast, and you’re listening to the sixth of seven episodes. In this series we’re looking at some of the topics that are endlessly debated, usually with no definitive answer and that’s good because I’m not looking to provide answers, just shed light on the conversation. Yesterday was all about circuits and today we’re continuing that theme but moving to a different aspect of the F1 calendar.
The length of an F1 season has changed drastically over the years. The first F1 World Championship included only seven races that counted towards the final scores. Seasons have ebbed and flowed, with races on New Year’s Day or lengthy winter off-seasons, from the races that do and don’t count towards the championship to the compulsory twenty event seasons of recent years.
In the 1980s, the season was about 13 or 14 races long. When I started watching F1, it was up to 17 or 18, and now, in 2017 we’re talking about 20 and 21 race events, and there are still plenty of locations that would still love to be added to the calendar.
Many F1 fans would say the more races the better, bring it on, a race every weekend if you can. NASCAR seasons contain well over 30 races and other sports, such as tennis, go through a full year with various tournaments on almost constantly. But, of course, there’s an argument to be had that the defined season with a clear start, a clear end, and a reasonable length allows for the narrative of a championship to unfold – the long story of how a driver ends up winning the title, whether it be in dominant form, or with a down-to-the-wire finish. If F1 was on all the time, it would dilute the story, and with the racing itself more often disappointing than not, it would do it no favours to be clogging up the TV screens every weekend.
Whilst to full on F1 fans, more races means more fun, that isn’t the story for everyone. At this point in my F1 fan life, I watch and enjoy when I can but can’t prioritise the sport over real life the way I used to. The more race weekends there are, the more chance there is for real life to intervene and for me to miss out on the fun. Equally, getting new fans on board may be easier if there is a limited set of events to watch – the Crashed Ice format of four or five events a season had us hooked immediately – but then again, there’s more chance of them stumbling upon the sport or giving it another chance if it is on screens more often.
Meanwhile, there’s the teams and drivers to think of. Well, not so much the drivers although there’s no argument that they work hard to be good at what they do. The teams of mechanics and engineers though, are hard at it from the moment they arrive at a location to the moment they leave. Unpacking equipment, setting up cars, repairing cars, managing a race, packing, moving on, and that’s before we even talk about the endless travel and opportunities for jet lag.
The more races there are, the more tired these crews will be. We’ve seen the summer break enforced recently to make sure employees take a break, but they are still visibly tired and clearly ready to stop by the final race of the season. If there are more races added to the already busting calendar, then teams are starting to talk about having to double up on race crews, having relief squads to take over when the A team are too tired to continue. This would increase the costs of participating in F1, which in turn could put some teams off joining in the first place.
This debate is a really tricky one as there is no right answer and not even an answer that seems more logical than the others. It’s truly a matter of opinion how long a race season should last, depending on how the sport affects your life and what you put in and get out of it. However, it’s a debate that we are likely to see take centre stage as the calendar creep we have seen in recent seasons continues, and the strain on the teams starts to become a real issue.
That’s all for this penultimate episode of The Great Debates, which means we have just one more episode in this series to go. Do let me know what you think about this particular topic, or previous debates we’ve discussed, or the show itself, by getting in touch at sidepodcast.com/contact. I’ll be back tomorrow with our final Great Debate – can you guess what it might be?
The Great Debates - Should classic F1 circuits be so highly rated?
25 Apr 2017 @ 06:00 am
Hello and welcome to the fifth episode of The Great Debates, a mini series brought to you by Sidepodcast in search of the reasons behind some of the endlessly discussed topics. In this series, we’re not looking for answers – these are debates that almost have no answer – but instead highlighting the subjects that most F1 fans have some kind of opinion on. We’ve covered races, drivers and teams and now it’s time to look at another aspect of the F1 circus.
The powers that govern Formula One and decide what direction its future is going to go in are always trying to expand the brand and keep the sport a global phenomenon. The calendar has changed significantly throughout the years, and there is a growing trend for European races to drop off the calendar and be replaced by new, shiny tracks in exotic locations.
But is this a good thing for the sport? Should F1 be broadening its horizons to new and untested locations, or would it do better to prioritise the familiar and beloved European circuits. I’ve unravelled five points to this debate, so let’s take a quick look at them individually.
First up, location. Generally speaking, the much loved and classic European races that have dropped off the calendar, or are threatened with that fate, are in the middle of rolling countryside, that is hard to get to and has little to support an annual community rocking up and staying for the weekend. Whilst beautiful, Spa Francorchamps is an incredibly rural destination, and Silverstone is notoriously difficult to get to when the traffic starts to build up. On the flip side, newer locations such as Valencia, Singapore and dare I say it Sochi, are in city centres – great for visitors, perhaps not so brilliant for locals. Singapore, in particular, have turned the idea of a race weekend on its head, including concerts and entertainment, and offering all the things a city can that a field in the countryside cannot.
The next item on our list is the layout of the track. Almost as a direct repercussion of the location argument, those classic tracks have had the luxury of time and space to build brilliant racing layouts – a mixture of corners, fast and slow sections, with unique areas that make them classic – Eau Rouge springs immediately to mind. Meanwhile, the newer tracks may be a dedicated build or may have to wind around existing street circuits, but no matter which, the track layout never seems to deliver fantastic racing. Singapore, Abu Dhabi, Russia, Azerbaijan, the list of new tracks that have tried and failed is growing constantly. A new track designer could help this situation, but if it is a street circuit, they can only work with what is already there.
Next up, facilities. Part of this relates to the first debate about location, in terms of fans having to stay in rainy British fields in flimsy tents for three days, versus a pricey hotel in the city streets adjacent to the race track, but there’s more to it than that. A new build allows for the facilities to be built better – high tech medical centres, nearby research and development complexes, a bustling paddock, and some beautiful, maybe even comfortable, grandstands. The tracks themselves are neat, clean and new, compared to crumbling race tracks with old buildings and a squeeze of a pit lane. But then again, there’s something to be said about the familiarity, about the less than pristine nature of a classic track. Where a new event can sterilise the atmosphere and the excitement, a well-known and much loved circuit simply serves to ramp it up, regardless of what facilities are available.
That brings us on to the fourth of our five points, atmosphere. Who can deny the camaraderie on display in Spa, the incredible party going on in Brazil, the intensity of a weekend in Monza? Compare that directly with empty seats in China, or the disinterested crowd of Russia, and it’s immediately obvious why classic tracks are so highly rated. They bring in an audience, and not just any audience, knowledgeable and passionate fans.
Which leads us to our last item, history. Monaco is always the example to use when it comes to discussing the history of a particular track. Up until I saw the madness of the Baku track, I would have said that Monaco would never be signed off as up to scratch for an F1 event if it was introduced today. But the long history it has in the sport, and all the weight of expectation and anticipation that comes with it mean it is a staple on the calendar. Races that have history create stories and that’s why the classics have gained their status and are held in such high esteem. But, let’s not forget that they all had to start somewhere, and just because a race is new doesn’t automatically make it bad. Maybe in twenty years’ time, we’ll all be anticipating the race in Azerbaijan at that classic Baku circuit. Then again maybe not.
Thanks for listening to this episode in The Great Debates mini series, we’re rocketing our way through our seven short episodes – just two more to go! I hope you’re enjoying the topics we’ve covered so far, you can always let me know what you think at sidepodcast.com/contact and do join me again tomorrow for our penultimate episode.
The Great Debates - How safe is too safe?
24 Apr 2017 @ 06:00 am
Hello there, you’ve tuned in to an episode of The Great Debates, a mini series from Sidepodcast discussing some of those Formula One topics that just never seem to disappear. We’ve talked about specific format arguments, as well as fundamental sporting discussions and now it’s time to move on to a new conversation, the ongoing debate about safety.
Formula One’s impressive improvements in safety are on display almost every race weekend, as drivers walk away from crashes that would have been disastrous in previous generations. It used to be that driver deaths were routine, Sir Stirling Moss and Sir Jackie Stewart have talked at length about their experiences knowing they would not finish a season with the full line-up of drivers they started the year with, that friends and colleagues would tragically lose their lives in motor racing accidents.
Thankfully, the sport has moved on a lot since then and drivers have survived barrier impacts that are frankly staggering. But there’s still work to be done, and recent events have brought the debate to the fore once again. The death of Jules Bianchi highlighted a growing trend in motor sport – drivers are so well protected in their bodies, that it is now head injuries that are prevalent. The governing body, the FIA, have seen this and reacted, commissioning the safety groups to come up with a solution and we have seen the results of that being tested at various race weekends and during testing.
The solution to this dilemma is an example that goes to the very heart of this safety debate – if you want to protect driver’s heads, then cover the cars with a cockpit. Ah, but that is changing the nature of the sport. Sportscars have covered cockpits, not Formula One cars. Okay, then we are dealing with the fact that F1 drivers have exposed heads, there’s not an awful lot you can do about it. How dangerous should the sport be, and if you sanitise it, are you taking away from the essence of F1?
The current proposed solution is a halfway house hoping to sit in the middle of all these debates. The halo cockpit device essentially provides raised carbon fibre to protect the drivers heads, but doesn’t cover the cockpit completely in an effort to keep the single seater series an open cockpit event. Some drivers are in favour of the idea, others have been very vocal about the disappointing look and feel of the cars once the device is installed.
Changing the look of the cars is an area that is very precious to some of the more dedicated fan base, which is another reason the closed cockpit solution doesn’t appease them. The halo device, for the most part, doesn’t look good bolted onto the top of a modern F1 cockpit. These cars have already been struggling in the looks department, although progress was made in 2017. Is it worth making such ugly cars that fans don’t want to look at them, in a half-hearted effort to protect a driver’s head?
The other part of this debate centres on what the drivers think, and ultimately whether they should be consulted at all. Naturally, if a driver is aiming to progress to F1, he has reasons for that which probably amount to the speed, the heritage, the status and yes, a little bit the danger. Feelings are mixed in the paddock, but some drivers say the threat of danger is part of the thrill of the race, part of the reason they race and we watch. Others say they race to win and that risking their lives is an uncomfortable by-product of that, minimising that risk is always the ideal.
You would think that being right at the heart of the debate, the ones in the hot seat, they should be able to make up their own minds about how much danger they want to face. But let’s not forget that you have to have a certain mindset to race these cars anyway, that need for speed, that craving to eke out the extra tenth of a second. When it comes to such minimal measurements and high adrenaline activities, it’s easy for a driver to push to the back of his mind the risk and focus only on the reward, so perhaps they aren’t the best person to ask after all.
In the end, F1 has settled for a committee, the Safety Working Group, who are plotting and planning ways to improve the safety of the sport in the future. All we can do is watch and see how it develops, and debate each step along the way, naturally.
Thanks for listening to this mini series episode, part of The Great Debates. We’re more than halfway through the series now, with just three short shows left. Have you been enjoying the series? Has it raised or answered questions in your mind? Let me know, sidepodcast.com/contact. And please do join me again tomorrow for another episode of The Great Debates.