Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for All

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f1 | formula one | motor racing | sport |

Latest Podcast Episodes

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.

The Great Debates - How safe is too safe?

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The Great Debates - Is F1 a team or individual sport?
23 Apr 2017 @ 06:00 am

Welcome to The Great Debates, a mini series brought to you by Sidepodcast, focusing on some of the hot topics that surround Formula One that may or may not ever be solved. This is the third episode of our series and we’re moving on to another debate that gets the fans talking. We’ve covered already the specifics of qualifying, and a more fundamental area of the sport, and this is another of the latter category. Let’s get going!

Formula One has a championship that features trophies for the team at the end of the year with the most points, and also for the driver that tops the standings come the end of the season. So, ideally, you’d say that F1 is both a team sport and an individual sport, but it’s almost impossible for the series to be both as we have seen many times in the past. And that’s the thing that fans end up debating – which should take preference, the best interests of the team, or getting a driver to the top step of the podium?

The way this manifests itself most often is, of course, in the form of team orders. A team has two drivers, and the pair are both hoping to get the best out of any given race weekend. But the chances are, one of them is higher in the championship standings than the other, or has a better possibility of getting a good result, so the team may choose to give that one the more favourable strategy or chassis parts, or engine, or worst of all, give the other driver an instruction to move aside, to help the favoured driver get ahead. We’ve seen it happen, often with mild consequences, but occasionally having a major impact on race results and championship challenges.

Teams will argue that it is their right to choose the strategy, to favour one driver over the other, to do anything possible to get their team the best result, the maximum amount of points and eventually the best position in the championship standings. That is where the money is, after all, in getting a high championship position, which brings in the prize money, which pays the bills to make the team and therefore the driver even more successful.

However, let’s not forget that the drivers are actually in the car, doing the job and bringing home those results. The driver’s championship is the most notable result, with many fans and team members alike remembering which driver won the series in any given year, but unable to name the winning team, particularly if it’s not the team the eventual champion drives for. So it’s all very well for a team to take the upper hand and claim that everyone needs to get the best result for the squad, but it’s not too hard to see the argument claiming driver success is the thing that keeps the sport ticking along.

And to further support the individual sport argument is the other side of the team orders debate – that if you are pitting your two drivers against each other, or favouring one over the other, it’s because they are individually better than the other, despite wearing the same sponsored clothing and answering to the same boss.

The team are required to provide the car, and the pit stop services, but the pressure is all on the driver’s shoulders to deliver the goods when it counts. The mind games, the battle against teammates, the concentration required to produce lap after lap of speed, focus and precision, all of that is on the driver as an individual, and without that, there would be no racing.

And yet, overall, it has to be considered a team sport. You need the driver, otherwise the cars would sit stationary on the grid. You need the team to provide the cars, otherwise the drivers would be engaging in a running race. Admittedly that would be entertaining but it isn’t what F1 is all about. This episode seems to be easily answered with yes, it’s a team sport, but there’s still just that niggling doubt that the individual drivers are providing the essence of Formula One itself, and that is where the debate will continue for years to come.

Thanks for listening to this Great Debates episode from Sidepodcast. We are three shows into this new mini series and I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a taste for this debating lark. If you feel the same, do join me again tomorrow for our next topic, and it’s a hugely important one. Thanks for listening.

The Great Debates - Is F1 a team or individual sport?

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The Great Debates - Which F1 qualifying format is best?
22 Apr 2017 @ 06:00 am

Hello there, welcome to The Great Debates, a mini series brought to you by Sidepodcast. This is the second episode where we will delve into one of the great mysteries of Formula One – not to find answers, but simply to ponder all sides of an ongoing argument. Yesterday, we looked at a fundamental building block of the sport itself, today, we’re focusing in on a specific part of the race weekend.

The age old saying in Formula One is that there are no points for qualifying on a Saturday. And yet, the way the grid is decided still provides plenty of attraction and entertainment for fans at home and at the track, and sometimes, just occasionally, has the potential to mix things up on Sunday – the day when the points are handed out. Over the years, F1 has tried out several different qualifying formats, and each time there’s a change, it’s only natural to compare and contrast with what has gone before. So which format is the best?

For the 2016 season, the FIA tried to introduce a last minute change to qualifying that turned a three session knockout style format to a more brutal elimination style instead. It only took one attempt to realise they’d made a distinct error with this format, that no one appeared to enjoy it – teams, drivers, paddock watchers and ardent fans alike – and it was quickly ditched. That format will likely not live on in infamy, or at least not for the right reasons.

There are three formats that get the most attention in any qualifying debate: the “here’s your allotted time, have at it” format, the single lap qualifying and what we have now, the knockout style amalgamation of everything. In the first type, that surely has a more catchy name than what I have come up with, drivers have a certain amount of time to complete their laps, they can go out when they want, and their fastest time dictates their position in the order. A fair and easy to follow format, but like practice sessions, likely to leave a lot of empty track time and see drivers caught up in traffic if they all opt to go out at the same time.

The single lap qualifying had more of a time trial element to it. Each driver went out by themselves in turn, for their one flying lap, and that was it, their only opportunity to put in a good performance. This has the added bonus of really sorting those that can handle the pressure from those that can’t, and helps you see where drivers are doing well and where they’re not, plus slots one driver at a time into the grid to help confused fans keep up. However, it also means drivers can be unfairly affected by weather conditions that move in or clear out, and those who go near the end of the order have a better surface to run on. It can also be considered boring for fans who don’t want to see one car at a time and prefer the hustle and bustle of a busy session.

And that leaves us with the current format – three sessions of reducing length, wherein the slowest six or seven cars are knocked out whilst the rest continue to the next session, culminating in a top ten shoot out for pole position. On the surface, this is a good compromise, allowing drivers to get several laps in each session rather than all the pressure being on one single lap, giving drivers the space to go out when they want but inevitably having the bustle of a last minute showdown. It can be confusing when driver after driver crosses the line and the order reshuffles, but when the dust settles, it usually seems like a good grid with the potential for a surprise here and there. But is compromise the right thing for F1 to do?

Fans tend to like the qualifying they know best, so perhaps it depends on when you started watching. With the governing body keen to keep evolving the sport and enhancing the show, qualifying is often under discussion for a regulation overhaul, but does it need it, and if so, should it go back to a previous iteration or try something totally new?

Thanks for listening to the second episode of The Great Debates, where we analyse the topics that generate heated discussions around the F1 world, without coming up with any answers. Do let me know if you’re enjoying the show, by visiting sidepodcast.com/contact, and join me again tomorrow for another debatable topic.

The Great Debates - Which F1 qualifying format is best?

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The Great Debates - Is F1 entertainment or sport?
21 Apr 2017 @ 09:10 am

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. This first episode starts with a fundamental principal of Formula One, its very purpose of being.

The question “Is F1 entertainment or sport?” at first seems obvious. It’s a sport. In fact, it’s a motorsport, the clue is in the title. The drivers have to be at peak physical fitness, they put in hours of training at the gym and in the simulator, and it all comes together when teams and individuals are pitted in head to head competition over a season of events. It couldn’t sound more like a sport if it tried.

And yet, the closer you look at it, the more you start to see the elements that point towards entertainment rather than sporting endeavour. You’ll have heard the arguments, I’m sure, whenever something like DRS is debated. The artificial device used on cars to promote overtaking where it previously would not have been possible only exists because otherwise the racing would be considered boring. To appease fans, DRS was introduced, with welcoming arms on one side, and, of course, an outcry on the other. The concern rests on whether these race-altering aspects are diluting the purity of the sport, because they are done purely for entertainment and not for sporting reasons.

Fans are giving up at least two hours of their Sundays, for an increasing number of weekends a year, and deserve to get something back in return, but at what cost? Whenever the Sporting Group or similar collections of high-powered people get together to discuss Formula One, its current state and its future, they inevitably turn to the subject of “improving the show”. Is it a show, then, first and foremost? Is it the entertainment provided by two hours of racing on a Sunday afternoon that should be prioritised over the purity of sport?

And what is that purity anyway? Where does it come from? Where is the rule book that defines what is and isn’t acceptable, where the line is before sport becomes entertainment? Whenever the four yearly Olympic Games rolls around, there’s always a conversation to be had about why F1 is excluded. Is it because it’s not a sport in the purest sense? More likely, what makes it into the games is a somewhat arbitrary decision. Regulations regarding excluding sports that require mechanical assistance at the games were removed several years ago, but there doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason about what gets selected. So, perhaps best not to use the Olympics as a benchmark here and go right back to basics instead.

Collins online dictionary defines sport as: “an individual or group activity pursued for exercise or pleasure, often involving the testing of physical capabilities and taking the form of a competitive game.” Formula One definitely fits that category. The dictionary defines entertainment as: “an act, production, etc, that entertains; diversion; amusement.” And actually, Formula One fits in that category too. So whilst the aim of this mini series is not to provide answers, merely to shine a light on the questions, perhaps we have actually solved our first mystery. The answer is that Formula One is both, a sport and an entertainment, and as such it has to constantly tread that fine line between keeping the purists happy and the fickle entertained. And if that is the answer, then this debate is one that will continue to rage for the foreseeable future.

Thank you for listening to this first episode of The Great Debates. What do you think about sport versus entertainment? What other great debates do you feel dominate the sport, or entertainment, of Formula One? Let me know by visiting sidepodcast.com/contact. And join me again tomorrow for the second episode, and our second great debate. See you then!

The Great Debates - Is F1 entertainment or sport?

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F1 Debrief - Go as fast as you can and hope for the best
15 Apr 2017 @ 07:11 am

On this show, we talk about Alonso's big news regarding a stint in the Indy 500, and the reaction from fellow drivers and team bosses about this decision. We ponder how McLaren will get on in Monaco without him, even with the return of the super fit but slightly rusty Jenson Button.

We discuss Zak Brown's influence on the team, coming at life as he does from a commercial background, and ask whether you would sponsor McLaren, given their current circumstances. We discuss Mr C's about turn in whether Alonso's decision is a good one or not, and worry about safety standards and extra-curricular activities.

We also have time to touch upon Alonso's Andretti teammates, what his chances are in the big race, and what a fascinating storyline this has added to the 2017 F1 season.

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Fernando Alonso keen to race the Indy 500
Credit: McLaren Honda

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F1 Debrief - I really give that a thumbs up
10 Apr 2017 @ 10:45 am

On this show, we discuss the new style of Formula One, from the lower rear wings to the wider tyres, and everything that brings to the race track. After two events of the 2017 season, we're excited to see what's been happening and to ponder what the rest of the year might bring.

We also discuss what, if any, elements of the race weekend can be easily discarded, particularly given the evidence we saw in China. We also ponder Vettel's parking issues and the attitude of the stewards, as well as post-race hugging and plenty of happiness on the podium.

There's time to debrief on the inter-team fights going on at Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull, whilst also sharing a quick thought about an ex-racer battle as well. With thoughts on Verstappen, Grosjean, Giovinazzi, McLaren and what we expect from Bahrain, there's plenty to digest from this F1 Debrief show.

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Which McLaren driver is suffering more at the hands of Honda?
Credit: McLaren Honda

As discussed

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An Aside with Joe - It's just part of the scenery
4 Apr 2017 @ 05:05 am

A new F1 season, with new drivers in new cars, painted with new colours and overseen by new owners, adds up to a whole lot of questions. Luckily we can put all of those to Joe Saward, who's all too briefly back home between race weekends in Australia and China.

On today's menu we talk about the tantalising new atmosphere in the paddock, McLaren's tricky engine decision and an aerodynamicist penguin with a talent (no, really). We also cover the honeymoon period for the new folks, F1's engine formula formality and Wehrlein's very mature choices.

Hold on tightly as we dive into the possibilities of a Honda/Sauber partnership, discuss who has the best car this season and why it is all too easy to say everybody is doing it wrong. Talk turns to unimpressive rubber, who has the ideal driver lineup, the politics of quitting again, plus what to look out for in China.

On top of all that, two men discuss a woman's bottom for 30 minutes and that goes about as well as can be expected. Enjoy this latest Aside with Joe, or at the very least, try to make it to the end without breaking something. Fair warning.

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F1 Debrief - Long live F1!
23 Jan 2017 @ 10:26 am

It's the first Debrief of 2017, and what better topic to be discussing than the change of leadership for the commercial side of Formula One. Bernie Ecclestone is stepping aside at long last and letting someone else take control of the sport we know and mostly love.

On this show, we are joined by the marvellous Adam Barton to discuss all things Liberty, including the Snapchat generation, what the new bosses first job should be, and whether we'll see a Ferrari reunion in the paddock.

We also talk about the opportunities for new circuit deals, whether Bernie leaves behind him a positive or negative legacy, and how much you can change, how quickly? Finally, we touch on F1's problem of selling itself, and what age you need to be to lead from the top. Don't forget to let us know your thoughts about Bernie's exit, using the link below.

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F1 party snacks to send off Bernie

As discussed

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F1 Debrief - He can just write his name in the history book and walk away
16 Dec 2016 @ 10:50 am

It's been a while since there was some sincerely shocking F1 news that made you sit up in your seat and do a double take. With Rosberg's retirement, it's only natural we took time out to talk about it, so coming up on this show, we accept the challenge of a listener, ponder outside bets for Mercedes, and the possibility of a fabulous 2017.

We've got a handful of voicemails from lovely listeners, sharing their thoughts on the Rosberg situation, and along the way we chat about whether Nico is a classy driver, what effect Bottas has had on Williams, and who is bottom of the Mercedes list.

We also chat about the 2016 season and discuss whether it was a classic or not, and pick the right time to hear those fantastic soap opera cliffhanger drums.

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Rosberg and his trophy
Credit: Daimler AG

As discussed

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An Aside with Joe - You want something, you go get it
24 Nov 2016 @ 08:43 am

Back home following F1's impressive outing in Brazil, intrepid globetrotter Joe Saward checks in to ponder all the comings and all the goings within the sport. From the quest for an epic TV showdown, to finding the right person to run McLaren and all points in between, we present this packed podcast to take you to the grand finale in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

Topics for consideration include speculation about who might fill the final three seats, the supreme talents doing amazing stuff, the future of the Malaysian GP and why a 40 minute race makes sense. There is discussion of the quarrels between Felipe Nasr and Sauber, an episodic title fight, riding a rocketship to the moon and alternate careers for a motor racing scribe.

Attention turns to conflicts of interest and a personal sense of morality, the negotiations surrounding Singapore and Brazil, Pascal Wehrlein's attitude problem and the benefits of balancing performance levels. Joe takes a shot at explaining F1's complicated prize fund model, considers his 500 race milestone and applauds the performance of Esteban Ocon.

Finally, we've being doing these shows for so long, it turns out we can finish each other's sentences. As ever enjoy another timely edition of An Aside with Joe.

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