One of the benefits of booking your Silverstone GP tickets nearly a year in advance is the free opportunity to attend a pit walk on the Thursday before the Grand Prix. Yesterday the crowds were out in force but despite an initial queue nearly half a mile long, things progressed smoothly and everyone had a good chance to have alook in the team garages.


Grosjean’s Lotus looked neat – imagine what it looks like tonight, half full of gravel!


Jenson’s McLaren Honda was in pieces, semi shielded from the public by a convenient trolley and some body pods. You could almost smell the despair..


By contrast Vettel’s Ferrari looked splendidly complete and ready for action.


Similar clean efficiency at Williams. They should be strong this weekend.


Bit more work on Massa’s car though!


The chaps at Red Bull were preparing Ricciardo’s car to a thumping house music beat. The other teams worked in silence. Deathly silence over at McLaren..


Meanwhile Nico Rosberg’s crew practiced tyre changes to the delight of the crowd.


Hulkenberg’s Force India was undergoing a rebuild


Former British GP winner Johnny Herbert was able to share some race tips with young Will Stevens of Manor.


Meanwhile Pastor Maldonado was being interviewed by Spanish TV


Will Stevens sporting weight saving haircut

   

New AMG GT safety cars. Nice looking but lets hope we don’t see much of them all weekend.

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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

January is always a pretty slow month for the motoring enthusiast. The season is over and the weather is usually so bad that even driving a modern car is no fun.  So with a lack of driving to keep me entertained I have been forced to get my thrill vicariously by plunging into some of the rather good motoring books I bought with my Christmas vouchers (thank you unimaginative relations!)…

Comic books feature rather strongly! But grown up(ish) comics I would like to think.  The Art of War is the pretentious titled F1 expose of former Williams Chief Exec Adam Parr.  Mr Parr was not, it appears, widely liked in F1 and that does to a degree shine through the pacey and nicely illustrated book he has produced.  It’s fair to say Bernie does not come out too well from Parr’s recounting of his years in F1.  On the other hand Max M, who wrote a forward to the book, is feted.  Whether you’d want to spend much time with any of them is open to debate. Still the book provides a fascinating insight into the politics of F1 and is a useful reminder of the fact that what is still a great sport is now also big business.

Art of War - Adam Parr

One of the joys of holidaying in France and Belgium is being able to buy Michel Vaillant racing comic books. Jean Graton’s Gallic racing star has been winning races since the mid fifties when he first appeared in the Tintin comics.  Now you can buy all the books in several thick volumes. They aren’t cheap so I have just bought the first, which covers our hero’s exploits from 1957 to 1960 in such diverse events as the Monte Carlo Rally,  Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500.  The illustrations of the fifties sports racers are great and the plots entertaining and just about discernible with my schoolboy French.  It was “an age of gentlemen”, as demonstrated by the gallant Gaul in one story who not only stops to help rescue his American rival and friend from a horrific crash but also provides an on the spot life saving blood transfusion too!  All this and an introduction by Alain Prost. What more do you need? Vive La France!

Michel Vaillant - Jean Graton

More recent comic delights are provided by Marvano whose Grand Prix Trilogy covers the exploits of the Silver Arrows before the last war. Given the awe in which they are now held it sometimes easy to forget that those magnificent Auto-Unions and Mercedes were financed by the Nazis for the greater glory of that benighted regime.  The story is told through the eyes of characters both real and fictional including Rosemeyer, Neubauer, Stuck, Porsche and that car loving non driver himself,  Hitler.  When I am in Stuttgart in March it will be interesting to see how much of a mention the Third Reich, a time when those shiny Silver Arrows used to run with a Swastika flag on their flanks, gets at the Porsche and Mercedes museums.  The illustrations are exceptional but the books are in French and I needed a dictionary to be able to understand some of the more subtle writing.  Still, excellent books for all those with an interest in pre war racing.

grandprix

Away from the comic books I acquired two good reference books.  Julian Hunt’s Motorsport Explorer is an excellent gazetteer of all motor sport sites in the British Isles.  Not just race circuits but hill climb venues, speed trial venues and even drag strips. The work that must have gone into this book is staggering.  Everything is covered from the ever-changing Silverstone to obscure hill climb courses used once in 1906!  Given moves to once again allow racing on closed public roads I am sure I am not the only one looking with interest at the locations of some of the old public road hill climbs and wondering..

motorsportexplorer

I have a bit of a nerd’s interest in old garage buildings so I was delighted to see Morrison and MinnisCarscapes that looks at the architecture and landscapes of cars in the UK.  Profusely illustrated it covers everything from car factories to petrol stations, roads, domestic garages and multi story car parks. It’s astonishing how much is left from the earliest days of motoring in the UK and this book will surely help preserve some of that heritage for the future.

carscapes