Thomas Randle - British F3 winnerThomas Randle - 2017 Toyota Racing Series Champion  Could those of us on the bottom side of the planet be producing another world class driver without noticing it? We are very good at that. Not many noticed the rise of Danny Ric until he was in Formula One, indeed the ABC continued to comment on his “debut” season while he was winning with Red Bull in 2014. Even though that was his fourth season as a Grand Prix driver. How many out there noticed Mark Webber until he hurled it into the trees at Le Mans? And then promptly forgot about him until that unlikely fifth on debut at Albert Park in the Minardi? How many of us in Oz have heard of Ken Kavanagh, Tony Gaze or Paul Hawkins who all made it to GP racing in the 50’s and 60’s or are aware that the likes of Vern Schuppan, Tim Schenken, Dave Walker and Larry Perkins were all Grand Prix drivers in the 70’s?


  Probably not many is the unfortunate answer. Very few except the hard core fans even knew that Alan Jones had won a Grand Prix before he swept the board with Williams in 79-80. Unlike some countries, take the Netherlands for example, where most of the population knew who Max Verstappen was when he was no more than a promising Formula 3 driver, Australians seem to ignore their up and coming racing drivers until they are winning at the very top of the sport. Usually they fail to get there, not through lack of talent, but lack of interest and only become known when they slip quietly back home to race V8s. Very sad.


  Now we have another one who is having a good crack at making it on the world stage. Thomas Randle is showing the sort of early promise that might, just might, take him all the way if he gets the right breaks. The 2014 Australian Formula Ford Champion and runner-up in the 2015 Formula 4 championship ventured to Europe last year to try to live the dream. In his debut in the highly competitive British Formula 3 championship he was on the podium seven times, took pole once and scored wins at Rockingham, and more impressively, Spa Francorchamps and ended a very creditable fourth in the championship. At years end he made a couple of appearances in the Formula V8 3.5 series, a similar class to GP2 and the one that Ricciardo used to make his final jump into F1.


  Already this year he has emerged victorious in the New Zealand Toyota Racing Series. This again probably doesn’t mean much to many Australians but to most of the emerging talent around the world, this series is VERY important. There were drivers from twelve different nations contesting the series including Pedro Piquet, Richard Verschoor, Jehan Daruvala, Enaam Ahmed, Ferdinand Habsburg and Brendon Leitch. All of these were junior category winners in Europe in 2016 so for Randle to win the title is no mean feat. He seems to also have a fairly pragmatic head on his young shoulders. The goss is that he is looking at heading to sports cars with an LMP3 programme in the European Le Mans series as a cheaper way of enhancing his reputation than spending what he doesn’t have on a GP3 or European Formula 3 drive which now require many hundreds of thousands of dollars.


  Lets hope that he gets a bit of home support and makes it all the way. It would be sad again to have a talent that just doesn’t quite get there through lack of support. Think of those that could have been racing in Formula One in just the last decade or so. Will Power, Will Davison, Ryan Briscoe and James Courtney all tested for Grand Prix teams and all had the talent to compete at that level. But for………..


Sam Snape








  The final long standing non secret was confirmed this morning with the announcements by Sauber, Mercedes and Williams of their driver line-ups for 2017. Pascal Wehrlein was first confirmed as replacing Felipe Nasr at Sauber, followed quickly by the not so shocking news that Valtteri Bottas was moving from Williams to Mercedes and then that, as no-one didn’t suspect, Felipe Massa was not retiring after all and would be staying on at Williams alongside the rookie Lance Stroll. So that, it seems, is that for 2017 driver line-ups. Except that it may be that Manor has received a last second purchase offer which if it is accepted by Friday will save the team and there will still be two seats up for grabs. Maybe…


  These announcements are good news for the three drivers concerned but perhaps not so for Felipe Nasr who has had some pretty impressive moments over the last two seasons at Sauber. But unless he can get one of the possible Manor drives he will be out on his ear come Melbourne in March. His debut drive to fifth at Albert Park in 2015 was sublime and in the first half of that year he was well on top of his team-mate Marcus Ericsson in both points and qualifying. Since then however, his dominance has declined. In the end Ericsson started ahead on the grid by a margin of 21-19 although Nasr still won the points battle 29-9. In an ideal world Nasr would deserve his seat in 2017 but in the harsh reality, where in the lower echelon teams money counts for as much as talent, if you cannot utterly destroy your team-mate and he brings in more of that filthy lucre, I still think that term sounds like the name of an Italian team manager… you’re going to lose out. And when Felipe’s Brazilian banking backers pulled the plug, his chances went down the gurgler.


  For Wehrlein it is a step up to a potentially more competitive car, especially if Manor don’t survive, and the chance to impress more off the track than on. No-one doubts his speed, his points scoring drive in Austria and the fact that he dragged the Manor into the second qualifying session way more than it deserved are testament to that. He does though, have a reputation for being a touch difficult. Having to be told, in no uncertain terms, to switch off his engine SIX times in Austin after beaching the Manor in the kitty litter shows a certain lack of maturity. If not a little stupidity. There are reports that while in the Mercedes DTM squad he managed to alienate every other driver and many of the other team staff through his self centred attitude. It was more this than any performance issue that saw, not just Mercedes decide not to promote him to replace Rosberg, but Force India to chose his Manor team-mate Esteban Ocon over him for 2017. Hopefully as his youth fades into the distance so will this immaturity and he can grow into the sort of top line driver that Mercedes will not overlook for their F1 squad, because he is quick enough to be very good indeed.


  Valtteri Bottas now has a chance to really show just how good he is. All reports from those that have worked with him say that he is without question, champion material. Beating Hamilton in the same car, even if that doesn’t bring a title, will prove them correct. And I really hope he can prove it. From the outside though it is tough to judge. Is generally being on top of an aging Felipe Massa really proof positive that he is the real deal? Would he have had the same level of performance advantage over one of the other upper midfield drivers such as Perez or Hulkenberg. How would he have performed against an Alonso, Ricciardo, Verstappen or Sainz? Maybe the drivers flattered the Williams and Massa was driving at the level he was back in 08 when he so nearly won the title and Bottas is better than that. But equally, the Williams may have been a better car than it’s drivers showed. Hard to tell. I guess by the time we get to November we will have our answer, and I hope that Valtteri is as good as his supporters claim. It will not only be good for Valtteri, but for us, the fans as well.


  As for Felipe, well he never wanted to retire anyway. He just wasn’t going to get re-hired at Williams and had no better prospects in F1 so was going to go race elsewhere. Now both Williams, and their sponsors Martini need him back. Williams because they need an experienced driver to help Stroll learn the ropes and maintain consistency of feedback with all the regulation changes. Martini need him because as an alcohol company they do not want two very young drivers as the faces of their brand. Stroll is too young to drink in many countries so that would not be a good look. So as Martini need Felipe, so do Williams as they need to keep the Martini cash flowing. It’s not just with the bottom dwellers that money talks. And if Felipe is driving as well as ever, why would you not keep him?


  Lets hope that Manor do get saved from liquidation, they all have a stella season and we get some great racing along the way.


  Sam Snape


  17-01 2017




After one last leap, Rosberg calls time on his career  Just moments prior to accepting his trophy for becoming the 2016 World Formula One drivers Champion Nico Rosberg announced that, having achieved his life long dream, he no longer had the necessary emotional reserves to continue in Formula One and strive for another title. Put simply, the last few seasons battling with Lewis Hamilton had drained him. He was tired and, like Jenson Button, after 25 years of chasing his dream he needed a break from the permanent travel and stress that goes with being a Grand Prix driver these days. You could plainly see after the race in Abu Dhabi just how much pressure he had been under and what a relief it was to have triumphed. His description of the race, “it was horrible”, was probably a very telling comment in hindsight.

  As was his reply to a pit lane commentator who asked him if he would use the number 1 on his car next year. “We will see.” I have a sneaking suspicion that he already knew that he did not want to go through this again next year but wanted to let his team know before he made his decision public. To the very end his commitment to his team over all else is what made him so admired within the Mercedes squad. Some could suggest that Lewis should learn from his example. I hope that the decision was not made in haste and that in six months or a years time he will be wanting to return. It is wise to know when you can no longer give as much as you have done previously. If Rosberg had continued with this mindset he would have done neither himself nor his team justice. So Nico leaves us at the peak of his powers with his reputation as one of the best drivers of his day intact.

   As a result of course, that horrid ripping noise you hear is the sound of Grand Prix drivers and their managers all over the world trying to figure out if they can tear up their existing contracts and fill the vacant Mercedes drive. Mobile phone companies are making record profits as Toto Wolff’s phone reaches melting point. Toto himself joked (almost) that the only two drivers who had not contacted him were Kvyat and Raikkonen, and that was only because they didn’t have his number. So who is likely? Well Pascal Wehrlein as a Mercedes Junior driver is the most obvious candidate.

   You can almost imagine his emotions over the last month or so. Beginning with bewilderment and dejection at being overlooked by Force India in favour of his team-mate, Esteban Ocon, despite his outstanding performances at Manor this year. His options for next year were looking just a bit bleak with just the possibility of going to Sauber or staying at Manor the only ones left on the table. Another year at Manor was the likely outcome but that would leave him where? About where he is now with not many vacancies up the food chain except at a couple of the very top seats which he would be unlikely to get as they all have their own in house junior talent to draw from. And now the excitement of the very possible prospect of jumping into the departing World Champions seat and battling for race wins. If he gets it he will need to grab the opportunity by the throat to retain the seat beyond 2017. If he gets slaughtered by Hamilton he will not get a second chance as many of the top drivers contracts expire at the end of next year opening up some intriguing possibilities.

   Some could be very exciting and possibly work out well. Some could be exciting, but as toxic as the Prost/Senna partnership (for want of a better word). Ricciardo and Hamilton could work. Daniel is as non-political as they come but is blindingly fast. Without having to pull any back-room stunts his speed, dedication and personality would surely draw many of the team to his side and he would be a major threat to Hamilton’s hopes of future championships. I’m not quite so sure about the other two top line drivers working out though. Alonso/Hamilton 1 was about as harmonious as Prost/Senna and although Alonso has mellowed a touch since then it could be very interesting. The Mercedes management had a hard time sorting out the tiff’s between Hamilton and Rosberg but a determined Alonso could take things to an entirely new level. I don’t think Vettel would be much easier. Two more self-centered, self believing, determined individuals than Hamilton and Vettel you are unlikely to meet. Both have been seen to openly ignore team orders in the past if it was in their own interests, even at the detriment of the teams. Not sure Toto and Niki would like that much, but it could be bloody entertaining for the rest of us.

 Sam Snape

 5-12 2016





Rosberg celebrates his title in style 


   Over the last six weeks Nico Rosberg could smell it. He could taste it. He could see it. He could almost reach out and touch it. Now, at last, he is it. The 2016 World Formula One Drivers Champion. Nice title, huh? And a very, VERY worthy world champion he is. And of all the previous world champions Nico joins a very exclusive club. Just he and Damon Hill are world champion sons of world champions. Nico’s dad, Keke took the crown in 1982, while Damon’s old man, Graham topped the world in 1962 and 68.

   There has been an appalling amount of bollocks from some of the mostly British fans who are insistent that Lewis should have been the champ but for his unreliability. What utter tosh. These are obviously the same folk that loved “our Nige”. Apart from anything else consider this. If it hadn’t been for an errant Hamilton in Spain Nico probably would have won there. If it hadn’t been for a dodgy gearbox in Austria Nico probably would have won there. So if you balance those out against Lewis’s engine in Malaysia the win tally could have stood at 11-10 in Nico’s favour. Yes there were other issues as well but it is MOTOR sport. Cars brake down. They have since time began, well the 1880’s anyway. It’s not even as if Nico is the first guy to win a title while scoring fewer victories than his main rivals.

   How’s this for a list. Mike Hawthorn in 1958 – 1 win to Moss’ 3. No-one, not even Moss said Hawthorn was an undeserving champion. In fact Moss even went as far as to support Hawthorn when it looked possible that Mike would be disqualified from the final race which would have given the title to Moss. What fool ever said “show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser”. I doubt that anyone has ever thought of Stirling Moss as a loser. Does anyone think that John Surtees should not have been champion because Clark scored one more victory than he did in 1964? Or that Denny Hulme wasn’t a worthy winner in 1967? Lauda scored less wins twice, 1977 (3-4 to Andretti) and 1984 (5-7 to Prost). Is it any coincidence that Niki is now one of Nico’s team managers? Not a bad guy to learn how to win a title from, And of course there was Nico’s dad in 1982 who only took one win that year. And Prost in 1986, who scored less wins than both Mansell and Piquet and again against Senna in 1989. Or of course Piquet who won less than Mansell in 1987. All of them, Nico included, did what was required to win the World Drivers Championship. They mixed raw speed with mechanical sympathy, ran hard when they needed to and conservatively when not and were the ones who were the most consistent drivers of their day. That is why they were world champions. That is why Nico is a world champion. He did EXACTLY what he needed to do to be a world champion while being in the same team as the guy who is considered possibly the fastest driver on the grid. Again, that’s precisely what Lauda and Prost did, and they are both considered two of the true greats of the sport. No-one devalues their championships. 

  So well done Nico, a very worthy world champion.

   A fond farewell was bade to two of the nicest guys to grace the grid this century. Jenson Button arrived as a spotty twenty year old in 2000 and despite immense talent it took him over 100 Grand Prix’s to score his first of 15 victories in the 2006 Hungarian GP. As BAR morphed into Honda things went from bad to worse and it appeared, when Honda pulled the plug at the end of 2008, that his career may have been on the rocks. It is astonishing then that out of Honda’s ashes rose the Brawn GP Team which lasted just a single, championship winning, season. As reigning champion Jenson joined McLaren in 2010 alongside Hamilton, a move many questioned, but proved ultimately to firmly establish Button as one of the best of his era. So after 17 years and 305 races it is understandable that Button has grown tired of the life and decided to become an almost regular person and long may he enjoy it.

   Felipe Massa arrived in 2002 with a slightly erratic reputation and after a single season with Sauber, was dropped from their race squad to become a Ferrari tester. With support from Ferrari Felipe was back in the Sauber squad for the next two years and proved that he had become a much more reliable racing driver. So reliable in fact that in 2006 he was signed up to race for Ferrari where he often outshone Michael Schumacher in their year together. He stayed at Ferrari for eight long years and for 26 seconds was the 2008 World Champion. That was how far from the finish line Hamilton overtook Timo Glock to score enough points to deprive Felipe of the title. In 2009 Massa was again outshining team-mate Raikkonen until he was struck by an errant suspension spring from Barrichello’s Brawn causing a severe head injury. It said much for his courage that when he returned in Bahrain at the beginning of 2010 he qualified his Ferrari on the front row and finished second behind new team-mate Fernando Alonso. Gradually both his and Ferrari’s form faded until he departed to join Williams in 2014. Being away from Ferrari politics re-invigorated Felipe and he enjoyed three fairly fruitful seasons with the equally resurgent English team although another victory would continue to elude him, his final victory being that almost wonderful day at Interlagos in 2008. It is a testament to his qualities, not only as a driver, but as a thoroughly decent human being that after his accident in Brazil two weeks ago that three teams – including Mercedes for whom he had never driven – gave him a standing ovation and guard of honour as he walked back to the Williams pit garage and his family. Not even Charlie Whiting was going to clear the pit lane during that wonderfully emotional moment.

   Happy retirement guys.

   And now looking forward, there is just 119 days until racing commences at Albert park with bigger, wider, faster cars and some new talent. Although I’m yet to be convinced that the new cars will promote better racing. Hopefully though, it will bring some other teams up to really challenge Mercedes.

For full results go to

Sam Snape







Can Nico smell victory?SMELLS LIKE – VICTORY




  It may have been a line from one of my favourite films but surely Nico Rosberg must be able, if not to taste it, but be able to detect the faint aroma of a world championship after his dominant performance at Suzuka on Sunday. Nico topped all three practice sessions, the second and third qualifying sessions and led all but five laps of the race to push his championship lead out to 33 points. The only session he did not top was first qualifying where he still came in third on the harder and slower “medium” tyres, saving his softs for later use. With just four rounds to go, even if he came home second behind Hamilton in every race he would win the title. Hamilton needs Rosberg to have a terrible weekend somewhere to bring his championship hopes back from the brink.



  But the luck you need to become a champion just keeps going Nico’s way and the terrible weekends just seem to keep falling on Hamilton’s shoulders. OK Lewis was out-performed by Nico at Suzuka but it was still another bit of bad luck that required him to battle back from an early eighth place instead of chasing Nico hard in second and possibly forcing an error. For whatever reason after overnight rain, the track on the inside line of the main straight did not dry completely by race time and all the front runners on that side of the grid slithered away from the line dropping placings like hot dog turds in the summer. Hamilton and Ricciardo copped it worst while really only Vettel made a reasonable start from that side of the grid. And that set the tone of the race.


  So long as Nico kept going there was no real chance that Mad Max was going to catch him and Max’s fight early in the race was more about keeping Vettel behind than eyeing off Rosberg. Ricciardo was blighted by an engine issue that left him struggling to hit top pace after exiting tight turns; ie the hairpin and spoon bend so he was always looking behind him while Lewis fought back to fourth by lap 15 after the first round of pit stops. From there he was just whittling down the gap to the V twins. Ferrari were intending to send Vettel out on softs for the final stint hoping not only that he would be the faster of the trio but that they would last as much as 18 laps. They didn’t. And so although Seb led for five laps he lost out to the undercut as Hamilton pitted earlier and he eventually dropped about 15 seconds by the end as Hamilton closed on Verstappen.


  With not long to go the Silver Sling was with the Red Rag and Max was defending second doggedly. The traction of the Red Bull onto the start finish straight was so good that even with DRS Lewis was not able to be in a position to attempt a pass into turn one and the Red Bull had been mega through the twists and turns of sector one all weekend. For lap after lap, by the time Lewis was able to get back into an attacking position the pair would be entering the final chicane and upon exit, Max would apply that traction and the dance would start all over again. It was all clean and hard and fair. Until the second last lap that is. Lewis got a better run out of the Spoon bend and was tucked up Max’s tushy through 130R. As Max took the normal line to enter the chicane Hamilton went for the gap on the inside. As Max has unfortunately done too often he then swerved in the braking zone to block Hamilton who had to stand on the brakes and jink to his left to avoid a collision, and went skittering down the escape road. So Max finished second – in very dubious circumstances, and Lewis third.


  Every so often I have had a go at Hamilton for not being the best of sports when he hasn’t won, but for once I am going to have to whinge that he has been too good a sport. Poor bastard can’t win sometimes. Mercedes immediately, and I believe quite rightly, appealed Verstappen’s driving and the stewards were going to hear the appeal before the next race in Austin. And Max’s defensive driving needs to be brought into line before someone gets hurt so a hearing before the stewards where he may have been given a penalty would have been a good thing for the long term. Unfortunately this will not now take place because Lewis did what I have wanted him to do for so long and took his defeat in good grace and asked Mercedes to drop the appeal saying, “this is not what we do”. Timing, as they say, is everything.


  In other news, don’t be surprised to hear by the end of the week that one of Force India’s drivers will be off to Renault next year. But not Perez. A little birdie tells me that Hulkenberg has agreed terms and just needs to negotiate his exit from Force India which should not be too much of a problem. That is probably why Magnussen has been left dangling for the last few weeks. My gut feeling is that if Renault is going to keep either of their existing drivers it is more likely to be Palmer or try to get Esteban Ocon. Ocon however, being contracted to Mercedes, is now more likely to head to Force India than Renault. Mind you, Williams are twiddling their thumbs somewhat in exercising their option over Bottas who apparently is also in talks with Renault just in case. Who said the silly season was over?

  One concrete piece of news is that as of season end, Mark Webber will be hanging up his helmet as a professional racing driver. A bit sad for all of Mark’s legion of fans as he seems to have really started to click as a sports car driver but hey, he is going out on while still at the top of his game and with at least one World Championship to his name. Thanks for the memories Mark, pity about Le Mans.


Sam Snape




For full results go to;






Ricciardo's odd celebration - will it catch on?  Well that was a race that had just about everything. A different and very popular winner drinking champagne from a shoe – almost a Cinderella story if you will. Plenty of overtaking. Cars bursting into flames. First corner carnage. Cretinous penalties and idiots in budgie smugglers getting arrested. Hell, where to start. At the beginning I suppose.



  On Friday morning the potential safety hazards of imposing the “halo” were brought firmly into focus. Kevin Magnussen’s Renault suffered a fuel system failure relating to a breather pipe and the fuel tank over pressurised, forcing the fuel out of a vent and erupting in flames in the pit lane. Magnussen was able to extricate himself from the blazing Renault without any injury, but the question now stands even more starkly than before. Would the “halo” restrict a driver getting out of the car in case of a fire? In the situation that arose at Sepang with the car upright and in the pit lane it would probably have slowed Kevin but perhaps not to a very dangerous level. But suppose for a minute that the fuel had leaked while Magnussen was on a balls out qualifying lap, got under his rear tyres causing a spin and the Renault had been upside down after an accident? One of the more ridiculous comments in this safety debate recently is that Formula One cars do not catch fire any more, even in accidents. While admittedly none have for some time, Friday proved that sometimes they still do and it will never be possible to ensure they don’t. The last time we endured the sight of a driver burning to death during a race telecast was back in 1982 – poor bloody Ricardo Paletti – and it’s one that anyone who witnessed it will ever forget and never wants to see again. Maybe Alonso’s call for removable “halos” has merit but could they then ever be strong enough to carry out their intended function – deflecting large heavy pieces of debris such as errant wheels? Way – way more thought needs to go into these devices before they are mandated.


  I noted with some amusement the war of words between Vettel and Verstappen both blaming each other for the first corner bingle that robbed Nico Rosberg of his chance at victory. Vettel claiming that it was all Verstappen’s fault for squeezing in on him entering the corner and Verstappen calling Vettel a maniac for diving up the inside. Almost exactly the opposite of the event and words after the first corner at Spa. Guys, it’s a race. Get over it. And the grid penalty that Vettel has copped was not to do with any maniacal dive up the inside of Verstappen, it was for clouting into the side of an innocent Rosberg after he had missed Mad Max. Not that I’m a great fan of Vettel but this is one of the cretinous penalties referred to earlier. OK if there was fault to be found, Seb was probably going a bit too fast to make the corner without clattering into Nico but for Christs sake, this was the first corner at Sepang where there is almost always some sort of carnage as not everyone gets it totally right on entry to a very tight corner. It wasn’t as if Vettel intended to take Rosberg out, it was just an accident – they happen. Again - it’s a race. Get over it.


  Which takes us to the second of those cretinous penalties referred to earlier. A ten second time penalty for Rosberg for causing a collision with Raikkonen at turn two. Just what are these morons trying to do. Eliminate all overtaking from Formula One? Why not just ban it and have all the cars drive around in grid order behind a safety car while encased in a protective shield of bubble wrap? At the very same time as the powers (???) that be are debating how to make the sport more “entertaining” to the “casual” viewer they go and hand out a penalty for one of the better – forceful – overtaking moves of the year. It wasn’t all Nico’s fault. It was obvious from any objective view point that Rosberg was lining himself up for a run down the inside of turn two from the way he positioned his car through turn one. It was not too fast as he would have made the corner had Kimi not turned in as tightly as he did. This is not to blame Kimi as he would not have been aware of Nico’s presence at that precise moment in time. So neither driver was truly at fault in what amounted to a minor bump that didn’t really effect either driver nor the outcome of the race. So just what was the point of the penalty? Drivers and some fans have been bitching about the “artificial” DRS making overtaking too easy and wanting passing to be harder to achieve so that you would have moves very much like Nico made on Kimi being more the norm. Sort of what it was like back in the eighties – the good old days. Ah yes, the good old days. When you were lucky to see more than two or three overtaking moves in a race because the drivers all just waited for the pit stops to gain a place because it was too damned dangerous to try it on the track. And as for the DRS being artificial? What about the turbo boost button they all had which handed a driver an extra 100 or so horse power. The only thing more artificial about the DRS than the boost button is that it is regulated in its use so not everyone is using it at the same time. There was plenty of good overtaking at Sepang, some of which was assisted by the DRS but very little that was generated by it. You still had to be in the faster car to get by, and that I believe is the point of motor racing.


  It was hard not to feel some sympathy for Lewis Hamilton as his Mercedes engine went bang at the beginning of lap 41. His plaintive cry of  “Oh no…” as the flames poured out the back of his car showed just how much emotion there still is in the sport in these overly professional days. What I couldn’t feel any sympathy for were his comments later that “someone or something doesn’t want me to win” which despite attempts from team management to later play down the comments were clearly a hint that he felt that there was some sort of conspiracy against him. What utter bullshit. No team spending as much as Mercedes does on its two cars would ever contemplate deliberately sabotaging one of its drivers. Apart from the vast amounts involved there are two very good reasons for this. One; Does anyone really think that as a brand, Mercedes, who bank on their image of technical excellence, want the world to see one of their cars with flames pouring out the back as the result of an engine failure? Not likely. Two; Championships can be lost that way. Imagine for a moment that Lewis is correct and that the team had made his car so unreliable that he was only third or fourth in the standings. Nico has an accident and is out for the rest of the year. (Think Schumacher in 2009 or Villeneuve/Pironi in 1982). That, at this point, would leave Ricciardo and Red Bull –Renault as likely champions. Again not something I see Niki Lauda or Toto Wolff ever allowing.


  And that leads very nicely into the year’s most popular winner. Daniel Ricciardo finally got his much deserved 2016 win after the disappointments of Spain and Monaco with an utterly determined drive on Sunday. For whatever reason Sepang has never been one of the Aussie’s better circuits and throughout the weekend he was usually a fraction off Verstappen and never really on the pace of the Silver Slings – as usual. Come the race, and a bit of luck at turn one and when the Merc went pop on lap 41, Dan just wasn’t going to let the Dutchman go by. Shortly before Lewis’s flame out Verstappen, on fresher tyres, had caught Ricciardo and the pair fought a side by side, elbows out, wheel to wheel scrap for almost half a lap before Ricciardo outbraked Max into turn 7 and held onto what turned out to be critical track position. When the safety car came out to remove the stricken Mercedes, both Red Rags entered the pits to bung on soft tyres with which they would finish the race. Daniel’s were completely fresh, having used one set less in practice, and this may have been the deciding factor. Despite a concerted push from Max early in the stint Ricciardo finally pulled a two and a half second gap by the time the flag dropped to give Red Bull their first 1-2 finish since 2013 and that enormous smile was back and began one of the more bizarre celebrations the sport has seen. Playing up to the crowd on the podium the grinning West Australian removed one of his driving boots, filled it with champagne and drank from it. I can’t imagine it improved the flavour a great deal. But with the crowd cheering him on he not only convinced team boss Christian Horner to also sup from the boot, but also team-mate Verstappen and remarkably, Nico Rosberg, who should all be commended for their sportsmanship (and bravery) if not their sense of hygiene. Rosberg’s comeback drive from dead last to third after the corner one carambolage was one of his finest and probably just as good as his complete dominance in Singapore two weeks ago.


  On a sour note (and I’m not talking about the Champagne Shoe) nine utterly moronic Australian fans were arrested on the track after the podium ceremony after stripping down to their underpants, which were all in the image of the Malaysian National flag. A less respectful demonstration to a fairly conservative but generally delightful national populace I cannot imagine. At this point in time they are still in a Kuala Lumpur nick (good) awaiting a decision on whether to charge them or just expel them from the country. Give the stupid bastards a couple of months I say…..




For full results go to


Sam Snape


05-10 2016