Congratulations to Lewis Hamilton on his second World Championship following his convincing win at Abu Dhabi earlier today. Whilst its a shame Rosberg dropped out of contention with mechanical difficulties, it was a relief that the Championship went to the driver with the most wins and that it was not decided by the ridiculous double points system in place for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Hammertime! Well done Lewis, Britain's first two time World Champion since Jackie Stewart

Hammertime! Well done Lewis, Britain’s first two time World Champion since Jackie Stewart

Other innovations were more successful. The new hybrid engines are absolutely fascinating and have proved more reliable than anyone would have predicted. I personally do not mind the different noise – I think it sounds like the future.

Despite Mercedes Benz’s crushing dominance it was still a thrilling season. The resurrection of Williams was great to see for all British fans as was the humbling of Vettel at the hands of his Australian team mate. Ricciardo has had a fantastic season, his third in the drivers championship being well deserved. His lack of pretention and easy going nature have already endeared him to the fans. We can expect great things of him next season.  In addition, thanks to the aerodynamic skills of Adrian Newey, Red Bull managed to stay in touch with the Mercedes powered teams, notwithstanding their Renault engines. A remarkable achievement for the team. How will they cope with less of his time next year?

Ricciardo had a great season- a future World Champion?

Ricciardo had a great season- a future World Champion?

Massa has also had a good season. He must be delighted Ferrari let him go. Ferrari’s season has been terrible – an embarrassment to the team who reap the most financial reward from the current system of team financing.  The departure of Montezemolo after so many years is the end of an era.  Rumours abound that Ross Brawn may go back to Ferrari. Might that and Vettel’s arrival be enough to help them out of the hole they are currently in?  McLaren, the second oldest team on the grid, have also had a season to forget.  Ron Dennis has a new Honda engine next season – will it be good enough? Engine aside they have not been competitive with the other Mercedes customer teams, Williams and Force India, both of whom have outperformed the Woking outfit.  Bar a miraculous Honda engine, Alonso is likely to face a tough test on his return to the team.

The administration of the Caterham and Marussia teams was a sad symptom of the increasing cost of F1. The new hybrid engines and the inequity of the current Concorde Agreement between F1’s commercial rights owner and some of the teams led directly to the reduced grid seen in the last few races of the season. Things do not look good for Sauber, Force India of Lotus either. Lotus’ season has been particularly terrible and it seems nothing much can save them apart from a return of Flavio Briatore or some other deep pocket.

After many years of no serious injuries in F1 we were rocked by Jules Bianchi’s terrible accident at Suzuka. Hopefully he and Michael Schumacher, injured in a freak skiing accident earlier in the year, will make a full recovery.

jules

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I love cars, whether they are steam powered old crocs from the Victorian era or modern supercars. I am, however, very aware that many people do not share my passion. Indeed there are many who have an irrational hatred for cars. The recent attempt by Green Party run Brighton Council to cancel the city’s famous 100-year-old speed trials is a manifestation of that.  As such it is imperative that those organising motoring events give no excuse to the car haters to further restrict our hobby.

I have been watching the London to Brighton veteran car run for many years. On the relevant Sunday in November I get up early, braving drizzle and cold, and head to the High Street in Crawley, Sussex,  the halfway stop for the veteran cars on the run from Hyde Park in London to Madeira Drive in Brighton.  Crawley is an uninspiring new town built around an old mediaeval core centred on the High Street. The town has suffered in the last decade or two, but has recently made a significant effort to regenerate its town centre. One of its showcase events has long been the London to Brighton run.  In years past the council has shut off traffic to the High Street allowing the veteran cars to pull up in front of the old George Hotel where the crews were able to take a well earned break and warm themselves up with coffee and hot chocolate. There was always  plenty of room for the public to come and watch, which they did in their hundreds. In addition the local scout troop set up a tea tent and served good value bacon sandwiches, earning funds for themselves and local charities and at the same time providing spectators with something hot on a usually bitterly cold day. The local radio station would also attend to broadcast live from high street and there was a real feeling of community engagement and pride in the event. The old cars looked great hissing and clanking past the medieval buildings and off on their journey to the South.

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The stop at Crawley as it used to be. Contrast with the image of the Honda garage below from this year.

 

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Good views for the public in previous years.

 

 

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The Scouts tea tent from previous years – great bacon sandwiches too!

I was horrified to find that this year the run would not be stopping on the High Street in Crawley. Instead it was stopping on the outskirts of Crawley at a Honda dealership. From there the cars would drive around the edge of Crawley bypassing the High Street. The local Council, MP and residents were naturally upset. I asked the RAC (who organise the run) what had caused the change. The cynical view of certain observers was that Honda as a sponsor had demanded more for their sponsorship – or had upped the level of their support. This was not denied and it was argued that without sponsor support the run could not happen.  Given that even the cheapest cars on the run now sell for over £60k I am not convinced that additional money from sponsors is that necessary. Putting the entry cost up would surely not deter too many of the well heeled owners for whom the annual run is often the only time they drive their veteran cars.  The RAC also argued that the facilities at the George Hotel were no longer adequate for the crews. Harrods, a new sponsor last year, had provided the catering from a gazebo and now presumably wanted better facilities.  This year they were able to take over all of the inside of the Honda showroom and provide covered seating for the crews. Given how poor the weather became on the day I expect this was welcome. But couldn’t a better temporary facility have been provided in the High Street?  Another argument put forward to support the change of location was the need for undercover areas for people to work on their cars.  Again I can see why that would be vital but the fact is a garage was always made available to crews in need of help on the approach to the town.

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Crawley half way stop 2014. Not quite the Power of Dreams..

When I dutifully made my way to Crawley on the Sunday morning for the Run the net result of the changes to the stop off point were worse then I had expected. There was very little space for spectators and as a result numbers were substantially down. The Scouts were no longer able to sell their tea and bacon sandwiches and as a result a vital piece of engagement with the community had been lost. More practically, there were no refreshments at all for the spectators who were not permitted to visit the Harrods indoor facility. I met a party of Dutch and Belgian tourists who travel to the UK every year to see the run. They were very disappointed with the change and said they would not be coming back to Crawley. Since they had all stayed the night in a hotel in the town centre, the change will therefore also have a tangibly negative impact on the financial rewards the Run brings to the town. The overwhelming feeling amongst spectators I spoke to was that the London to Brighton Run appeared to have turned its back on Crawley.

The veteran car run does cause inconvenience to locals as roads are shut and traffic delayed and diverted. I would not be at all surprised if the council in Crawley decide to withdraw their support for the Run given the Run seems to have withdrawn its support of Crawley.

John Surtees is almost the forgotten man of British F1. The only man to win the World Championship on two wheels and four, unlike Sir Jackie and Sir Stirling he still lacks a knighthood despite his achievements and his work for charity.

Surtees won his seven motor cycle world championships racing for Italian manufacturer MV Augusta at a time when the championship included the daunting Isle of Man TT, an event he won three times. When he was 26 he switched to racing cars making his debut with Lotus. But he is best remembered on four wheels for winning the 1964 World Championship with Ferrari. After he left Ferrari he briefly raced for Honda before founding his own team in 1970. His greatest success as a team owner was winning the F2 Championship in 1972, his winning car being driven by fellow ex Motor Cycle champion Mike Hailwood. He folded his team in 1978 to concentrate on other interests. His son Henry was also a promising racer tragically killed in a freak accident during a F2 race in 2009. Since then Surtees has concentrated his efforts on the Henry Surtees Foundation, that raises money for those afflicted with brain injuries, and also on encouraging young drivers to make the step up to professional motor sport.

Surtees was one of the principal guests at Autosport International and he and others assembled for display a fine collection of the cars he raced and built. His championship winning Ferrari in particular is a rare sight in the UK, usually residing in California. As this is the 50th anniversary of Surtees’ F1 World Championship the cars are touring the country. Catch them at Mercedes Benz World, Brooklands in June. And join the campaign to get John the knighthood he so richly deserves..

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Championship winning Ferrari 158 – rare UK visitor

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immaculate Team Surtees cars – iconic 70’s racers

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One of my favourite liveries as a boy – a racing car with my preferred toy car manufacturer emblazoned on the nose. Certainly more attractive than the later Team Surtees Durex sponsored cars..