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Win a pair of tickets to the 2012 Santander British Grand Prix

2011 British Grand Prix. Photo by Darren Heath

Never has F1 punditry been more of a mug’s game. Car, weather, fuel, tyre management, sheer determination – and maybe a bit of luck. In the five grands prix from the start of the season until the point I bash finger against keyboard, we’ve had five different winners – including two first-timers.

Well see here: you and a friend (or significant other) could be watching history unfold trackside at this year’s British Grand Prix. Courtesy of Shell V-Power I have a pair of grandstand tickets worth £500 to give away.

All you have to do is answer this question:

What, in your opinion, is the greatest ever Formula 1 performance and why?

That’s quite an epic library to draw from. Cast your minds back beyond the immediate past. How about Thierry Boutsen’s redoubtable defence against Ayrton Senna in the 1990 Hungarian Grand Prix? Jackie Stewart’s absurd victory margin at the Nurburgring in 1968? Sir Stirling Moss’s bossing of the works Ferraris in his privateer Lotus at Monaco in 1961?

Eloquently craft your entry and submit it via the comment box below. You can write more than 200 words if you want, but remember what attention spans are like on the internet these days. Your submissions will be judged independently on quality, passion and inspiration. And unfortunately this competition is for UK residents only (sorry!).

It could be you... A grandstand view of the British GP. Photo by Darren Heath

Who will be the king of the Silverstone castle? Who will be the dirty rascal? Don’t ask me – punditry is a mug’s game, remember? Enter this competition and you could be there to see it unfold for yourself. The competition closes at midnight on 18th June 2012 and I’ll announce the winner on 25th June 2012.

If you miss out this time, it’s not over. Simply fill up (minimum of 15 litres) with Shell V-Power Unleaded or Shell V-Power Diesel or purchase any Shell Helix product at a participating UK site, swipe your registered Shell Drivers’ Club card (which must be registered at the time of purchase or before the draw takes place) and you’ll be entered into a draw for more pairs of tickets to the British Grand Prix.

For full terms and conditions click here.







Phil Collins was wrong: you may need a coat. Photo by Darren Heath

Free Formula 1 photo exhibition in London this weekend

Giuseppe Farina's Alfa Romeo 158, winner of the first F1 World Championship Grand Prix. Photo by James Mann

Giuseppe Farina's Alfa Romeo 158, winner of the first F1 World Championship Grand Prix. Photo by James Mann

Do you like great pictures of Formula 1 cars? This weekend (2-3 October) James Mann, my collaborator on the Art of the Formula 1 Car book, is hosting an exhibition of his work as part of the Lambeth Open Festival.

Gilles Villeneuve's Ferrari 312T3

Gilles Villeneuve's Ferrari 312T3

The exhibition is free to enter and you can find it at Plough Studios (Park Hill, Clapham, SW4 9NS), where many of the cars were shot for the book. You’ll be able to see the ‘cove’ and gain a real insight into how cars are photographed in a studio. As well as photographic prints there is a real F1 car, a recently restored Leyton House CG901 – one of Adrian Newey’s early works.

On Monday the prints will be auctioned off in aid of The British Home charity. If you like the pictures you can also order copies and there will be autographed copies of the book available too (assuming I don’t get mown down on the way there tonight).

Michael Schumacher's Ferrari F2000

Michael Schumacher's Ferrari F2000

Don’t write the script for misery

Martin Whitmarsh addresses the media. Picture by Darren Heath

Martin Whitmarsh addresses the media. Picture by Darren Heath

Back in the dog days of F1, Mrs Codling would take a nap on the sofa on a Sunday afternoon. Roused only by Bob Constanduros’s strident cry of “Champaaaaaaaaaagne,” she would open a weary eye and enquire as to the identity of the winning driver; usually it was Michael Schumacher, and, thus apprised, her only comment would be, “Borrrrrrrring!”

She’s taken more interest over the past couple of years, but about 10 laps into the 2010 F1 season opener my wife decided that her time might be more productively deployed in the manufacture of some carrot and orange soup. Should we now, like many of the sport’s luminaries, be pressing the panic button?

I ask only because there has been an unseemly, tawdry and tedious rush to screech from upon high that F1 is broken and must be fixed NOW, NOW, NOW. You could understand if this noise issued forth solely from journalists who’d been left without much to write about by such an uneventful grand prix; but no, we’re getting it from those team principals who are never knowingly last to reach an open microphone.

Saint Martin of Whitmarsh beat the Frystarter to it on this occasion (maybe we should assign points and turn it into a championship). Before the engines were even cold he was assuring the BBC that the tyre situation needed a ground-up rethink:

We were one of three teams that said we should have two mandatory pitstops because we were worried about one-stopping. I think we have to re-examine that. But I think if we can now push on Bridgestone to have ‘racier’ tyres, we need a super-soft tyre that is really going to hurt if you take it to 20 laps.

Sounds good enough, but a man in Martin’s position would know that it’s unworkable. The tyre allocation for the season has already been determined. Melbourne’s allocation is already on the boat. Bridgestone can’t simply torch a load of tyres it’s already produced and come up with an entirely new set of compounds overnight; that would be asking a lot, even if the company hadn’t already decided to pull out of F1 at the end of the year. Such talk is shamelessly populist.

Speaking of shameless populism, enter the Frystarter:

I think it would be bad if we didn’t react. I think we have all seen a race that was far from the most exciting that we have ever seen, and what we now need to do is between us have a look at it and establish what we do need to do.

I know what we need to do: declare a moratorium on outright guff.

Perhaps Bahrain was the wrong venue for the season opener. I don’t wish to demean it as a location; no other nation to have joined the F1 calendar in the past decade has shown such unswerving commitment to getting it right. The royal family takes a personal interest in the running of the circuit (compare and contrast with China and Turkey, who host grands prix to the ever increasing indifference of the authorities and the local populace). But it isn’t used enough, it’s dusty (an absolute deterrent to overtaking), and the fiddly additional section had no meaningful effect on the racing.

We’re one race into a season. One race that has overpromised and underdelivered. There have been boring races in the past and there will be again. We shouldn’t extrapolate one set of circumstances to arrive at a storyline for the whole season. Could we at least see what happens at Melbourne and Sepang before we decide that F1 is heading off to hell in a handcart?

Less reactionary heads may prevail. Stefano Domenicali of Ferrari has it right:

Let’s wait and see how the other races will develop. It may be a different situation in different conditions, so I would like to tell you my opinion after a couple of races so we can at least have a different scenario that we can say, this is the real situation or not.

Books, books, books

It seems like an age since I finished it – that’s because it is! The Art of the Formula 1 Race Car, with words by me and excellent bespoke studio photography by James Mann, rolled off the presses last week. It’ll be on sale from mid-March.

The book features a range of Formula 1 cars from the Alfa 158 to Lewis Hamilton’s championship-winning McLaren Mercedes MP4-23. The Alfa we photographed is one of only two left in the world and it is the actual car in which Farina won the first world championship grand prix in 1950.

In between is a miscellany of machinery, each of which has an interesting tale to tell as well as fitting into what TV scriptwriters would call Formula 1′s ‘story arc’.

If you fancy a taster then you can see a selection of the photographs and some adapted text in the most recent issue of F1 Racing magazine.

You can order a copy here. I’ll put in one of those fancy windows-in-the-sidebar as soon as I can work out how to do so without utterly wrecking the site.