For the last time in the foreseeable future, F1 has graced the Sepang circuit in Malaysia with its presence, producing a race with some initially unexpected results, and a case of shooting one’s self in the foot. For the second race in succession, Ferrari had the initiative, and for the second time in a row they squandered it.

Whereas in Singapore driver error was to blame, here it was due to technical reasons. After Vettel had looked very quick in practice, a transmission problem conspired to rule him out of qualifying completely, forcing him to start last. This was bad luck for the German and it could not have come at a worse time – on a track where things had expected to be close, Ferrari actually looked to have an advantage on Mercedes. It was up to Raikkonen to hold up Hamilton’s title charge, but trouble developed for the Finn as the cars sat on the grid – he was wheeled off, with the bope of starting from the pit lane, but that hope would fade. 

So this left Hamilton (who had narrowly beaten Raikkonen to pole) to start with Verstappen and Ricciardo’s Red Bulls begins him. After a strong start from Valtteri Bottas to steal third, soon both Mercedes would come under pressure from the Red Bulls – Verstappen would take Hamilton for the lead within a few laps, whilst Ricciardo would get by Bottas a few laps later. The Red Bulls had looked pretty good in their own right during practice, and now one of them led a race, on merit, for the first time since 2013. Verstappen began to edge clear of Hamilton, who in turn kept clear of Ricciardo, who was in turn easing away from a disappointing Bottas. 

Meanwhile Vettel would begin to scythe his way through the field. The slower cars offered little resistance, though old rival Fernando Alonso did make a nuisance of himself for a few laps, despite, as ever, lacking power in his McLaren. Whereas virtually everyone was starting on supersoft tyres, Vettel started on softs, inverting the strategy, yet despite being on the slower tyre he was able to resume climbing up the field once he cleared Alonso. At the front, Verstappen continued to pull away.

For the top three things would remain fairly static for the most part, without much intrigue or excitement. However Ricciardo would have a brief tangle with Vettel, who had managed to climb to fourth, including dispatching Bottas without too much difficulty. By this stage Vettel was on the quicker supersoft tyre and Ricciardo was on the slower soft compound, but the supersofts are more fragile, and Ricciardo (at one point aided a little by a lapped Alonso, who didn’t leap immediately out of Vettel’s way) was able to fend off the one and only meaningful attack Vettel made. From there, Vettel’s tyres gave up, leaving the top three to remain as they were.

Hamilton could do nothing about Verstappen, but after practice had suggested Vettel might claw back a decent chunk of the gap, instead his championship lead increased to 34 points with five races to go. Vettel’s performance was exemplary, and an excellent piece of damage limitation, but for the second race in a row big opportunities have been missed. Meanwhile, Red Bull scored a rare double podium, and Verstappen’s comfortable, mature win, serves as a reminder of the young man’s talent. Married to a better engine, it’s clear the Red Bull drivers would be in the title race. 

Next up is Japan, a track that should favour Mercedes, but then again, Malaysia should have. As we bid goodbye to the nation, Ferrari are left to wonder what might have been.

It’s home Grand Prix time! And as it normal for the UK, the elements would play a role. The practice sessions took place in dry conditions but the Met Office was forecasting a 90% chance of rain come the start of the race – without rain during practice runs it was guesswork as to setup and tyre performance. It was also a gamble as to whether to start on inters or full wets – what would the weather do?! A brief opportunity did arise to do testing but the erratic performance of the precipitation rendered the information more or less pointless. It was, for me at least, a case of trusting my gut. With the forecast changing and hinting at prolonged rain, I went for full wets on both cars.

The choice proved correct. The rain fell for a considerable length of time, saturating the track. I opted for a two-stop strategy for both drivers and away we went.

From the beginning it became clear this was a three-tier race – those who had not run any wet weather practice, nor attempted a wet weather setup, languished behind everyone else, not aided by being on inters (which the game defaults to). Then came a second group – which my cars were attached to, along with the Drivezalot boys and one other. Then we had the leaders, who peeled away quickly. Once Drivezalot’s Morales had gotten ahead of a car in front of him he too began to pull away – leaving the rest of us to scrap for the lower points places. At one stage I had both cars in the points (yes, Taylor was keeping a reasonable pace for once), there was to be a new variable late on, and a miscalculation.

With only a few laps remaining the rain suddenly stopped, which would work in Thompson’s favour as he would gain a few places by sticking to wet tyres as others pitted. Thompson would claim 7th place – not a bad effort. Taylor was running in the points but I had underfuelled him; a last lap stop dropped him to 12th. Still, a third consecutive points finish keeps me hitting targets and staying comfortably clear of relegation.

In the title race, a Black Arrows 1-2 provided a lift to them at a time where other teams had been threatening. However, it was J Smith and not Thompson who won. J Hill of Mopar completed the podium. Those who kept on wet tyres were the ones who benefited here.


Since 1999 Malaysia has been hosting F1 races, but 2017 will bring that to a close. Because of (surprise surprise) financial problems, the Sepang circuit won’t be providing any more F1 thrills and spills for the foreseeable future. As an event, the race has sometimes provided drama in the wet, and even in the dry – whilst last season (and this season) the race is being held later in the year, it has sometimes popped up as the second or third race, when teams are still getting to grips with new cars. This has produced some topsy-turvy moments – 2012 for example, featuring an unlikely win for Fernando Alonso with Ferrari and second place for Sergio Perez, then of Sauber. It also saw a drenched race in 2001.

Given Malaysia’s location, this race can rival Singapore for heat and humidity, with the saving grace being that the race isn’t quite as long. Nonetheless, Malaysia manages to be quite gruelling. There are some bumpy corners too – turn 4 is rough, and so is turn 9.

How will 2017’s race play out? Well, Mercedes might well fancy their chances, but it’s important to remember Ferrari outwitted them on strategy here in 2015. Whilst there are some long, powerful straights, there are also bendy sequences that might play into Ferrari’s hands. Overall, the track does seem more geared up to speed, but in what could be variable conditions, it would be unwise to assume a clear Mercedes victory.

A race that doesn’t exist in F1 anymore, Turkey features a famous and long, fast left-hander as well as several bumpy regions of track. Playing on F1 2009 on the Wii (am I showing my age?), Turkey was a race I quite enjoyed, as it was quite challenging.

Practice threw up an odd variable – rain. Turkey isn’t associated with wet weather, yet the early presence of water meant being conservative with practice runs – I proceeded on the assumption that later in the day it would be dry. I was right. Qualifying saw Schumacher on pole with D Thompson behind him and the Drivezalot pair of Schneider and Morales just behind them. My best effort was 11th, from G Thompson, nearly a second down. The race translated to fairly long runs on medium tyres, with Thompson running the hard and soft compounds at some point, and Taylor sticking exclusively to mediums.

This resulted in Taylor languishing, finishing 15th, but Thompson once again took ninth, so after two races out of the points, I’ve now had two races back in the points. It’s still some way from where I want to be, but I’ve changed my approach to how I develop the car, in the hope of leaping forward a little bit.

Race winner? Dudek of 221op, some nine seconds clear of his teammate Bliss, who was some 12 or so seconds ahead of Morales. Black Arrows still lead the constructor’s race on 198 points to 221op’s 132, but recent form suggests the second half of the season will provide some close racing and a tight battle. In the driver’s standings, D Thompson still leads, but his advantage has been cut to 23 points, with Dudek in hot pursuit. The stage is set for some intrigue.

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Apologies readers, for this review is a little later than planned (life interferes sometimes!). Monaco, the land of glitz and glamour (albeit not for us players!) brought a second consecutive win for G Papandreou of Mopar. The surge in teams getting competitive for wins and podiums is a sign of how good this league is – no one can rest on their laurels, even for an instant.

My abiding personal memory of this race is that I halted my recent slide by collecting points for ninth – and for a time, had hoped to catch Smith of Black Arrows, but he was always lurking just out of DRS range. Sadly, this post won’t be more detailed, as I am battling a cold and my memory is therefore hazy (I was also distracted by Star Trek Discovery), but the rise to form of Mopar… plus the improvements by other teams… would they continue?

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The European leg of the season begins with Spain! This was yet another poor race for me – the hard tyre let me down and my cars were too heavy, leading to yet another failure to score points or hit my target. Cest la vie. It was however an interesting race in other ways, featuring a different winner, and J Smith of Black Arrows finishing ahead of his normally quicker teammate Thompson, who didn’t even make the podium. Instead Panpandreou of Mopar took the win, albeit by a slender margin from Smith, with Mopar’s J Hill completing the top three. For a long time I’d thought the Drivezalot boys of Morales and Schneider might take podiums; where I could I’d look at how the leaders were doing and those two were in the thick of things. Instead, real life intervened, leaving the team to fate. There were still points to be had, but the signs are there that Drivezalot are going to be competitive.

I wish I could say the same for me. I haven’t registered points for two consecutive races, so I need to bounce back.

After five rounds, the driver’s championship looks like this:

The constructor’s standings are:

Hot and dusty Bahrain was the venue for round four of the championship, and given the heat, tyres would take a serious punishment here. Harder compounds would fare better (at least, in theory), staying cooler in the intense temperatures. Nonetheless, short stints on the soft tyre were in order for several teams, and I used softs for Taylor’s qualifying, which saw him start 11th, albeit he was more than a second down on pole sitter Schumacher of RBHRT. However, as we have seen, starting on pole is not a good measure for who will end up winning. Instead, the race threw up some expected results, and some new faces in the points. It was also, for me, an unmitigated disaster.

For whatever reason my cars just weren’t quick around here. Despite long runs on the hard tyre yielding positions in the points at one stage or another, come the end of all the stops Thompson and Taylor were firmly in the midfield and there they would stay. Thompson was catching a few cars ahead, but would have needed several more laps to actually move higher up, much less get into the points. The only positive for me is that Taylor looked a lot better relative to Thompson, finishing ten seconds behind his teammate, as opposed to half a minute or so.

It won’t come as a surprise to learn that D Thompson of Black Arrows won yet again, extending his championship lead and that of his team’s. What we did get were the first points of the season for the Drivezalot team, which is pretty pleasing as the manager of the team is someone I’ve raced against for a few seasons, and we moved to this league together, so it would nice to continue our rivalry. C Morales took fifth for Drivezalot, comfortably beating his previously quicker teammate L Schneider, who finished ninth.

What this all means is that after four races, Black Arrows are on 140 points, 78 points ahead of 221op. Already we’re looking at almost two one-two finishes for Black Arrows’ closest challengers, combined with few or no points, to close that gap. In the driver’s championship, D Thompson is on 93 points, 41 points clear of Dudek. Again, that’s more than a race win. I’ll do a comprehensive table after round 5.

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A double-header today, as I didn’t get around to writing up the Chinese GP yesterday. The simple story of the Chinese race would be yet another win for G Thompson of Black Arrows, cementing his place at the top of the standings. Behind him was J Hill of Mopar, scoring the best result of the season so far, for both driver and team. D Hill of Pulurburz was third, and then J Smith in the second Black Arrows was fourth. The top four were separated by only seven or so seconds, and just behind them came… me! Or more precisely, G Thompson of Meerkat Racing, scoring his best result so far (not to mention the best result I’ve had this season). Once again a two-stop strategy for G Thompson appeared faster – albeit only just – than the three-stopper used by some of the other teams. Someone is going to have to start taking chances if Black Arrows are to be beaten.

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Fresh from a reasonable but somewhat stunted start for me personally comes round 2 of the iGP championship. The hot and bumpy venue of Malaysia is where the cars and teams have headed, with the weather pre-race looking set to be dry. Practice… well, see for yourself.

Being .758 seconds down on S. Mansell of Moe Corp didn’t necessarily mean anything. After all, J. Bernard, winner of the first race, was .555 seconds down of Mansell. However I wasn’t overly confident of challenging for a win. My car is very much a ‘work in progress’, not least of all because of tyre economy issues. I set up both cars on three-stop strategies, initially relying on combos of hard and soft compounds (two stints on each).

Long runs on the hard tyre mean a lot of fuel, so Thompson (starting on the hard tyre) qualified way down the field, however as the fuel decreased the car got faster, eventually pumping out competitive lap times and taking advantage of stops for cars in front. At one point Thompson was running in podium places, though it was always unlikely he’d stay there. Taylor meanwhile, started on the soft tyres but faded when he went onto the hard compound – he is young and still learning, though I wonder if a different strategy might be worth considering for him.

So how did the race pan out? For me personally, the target was P12, and I managed to beat that with a late piece of risk-taking. Rather than pit for soft tyres late on for Thompson, I took on supersofts for the last few laps. I was worried they would degrade too quickly, but they held out and allowed Thompson to climb up past cars on slower tyres.

Within the story of the race came a nice little conversation about coffee – Lou and George, I am pleased to say I now know your coffee habits! And sorry Lou for not pitting several times late on to help you out ;). Nicholas… I promised a mention and all I can say is, keep pushing! Time will yield results!

So who won? D Thompson of Black Arrows, who had been the dominant driver of the dominant team last season, won the race, but was only 1.883 seconds ahead of Australia’s pole sitter Schumacher. The pair were somewhat clear of the rest – Dudek completed the podium, seven seconds behind Thompson. Interestingly, Thompson won on a two-stop strategy, one of only two points finishers on a two-stopper (the other being Dudek). 8th place for my own Thompson was soured slightly by 24th place (out of 32 racers) for Taylor. He is very much a work in progress.

So after two rounds, the Constructor’s Championship looks like this:

1. Black Arrows: 63 points.

2. Badger Racing: 39 points.

3. RBHRT: 38 points.

4. 221op: 30 points.

5. Pulurburz: 16 points.

6. Meerkat Racing (yay!): 10 points.

7. Mopar: 4 points.

8. Melo Motorsports: 1 point.

9. kkrl3c4762551 (catchy name!): 1 point.

The Driver’s Championship looks like this:

1. D Thompson: 43

2. J Bernard: 35

3. R Dudek: 30

4. J Smith: 20

5. M Skaife: 20

6. M Schumacher: 18

7. D Hll: 16

8. G Thompson: 10

9. J Hill: 4

10. M Sato: 4

11. E Roberts: 1

12. M Wood: 1

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As explained a little more detail here, I’ve got a game/app that is all about F1 management. These sorts of games have often failed to excite me, so it was nice to find one that is pretty good, offers real-time multiplayer, and even dynamic, real-time weather (if it’s really raining at Silverstone, expect a wet race on the game, and if the rain stops in reality, it stops in the game too). What I’m doing is keeping a record of the latest season, which is a 17-race event, starting with the Australian GP.

With a time of 1.24.881 M Schumacher (yes, I know, the players don’t choose the drivers’ names) of RBHRT set the quickest time in practice. My own best performance was from veteran G Thompson, setting a time of 1.25.265 and settling for 10th for Meerkat Racing, putting Thompson 0.384 seconds off the pace of Schumacher. Crucially, both cars were running the supersoft compound when their times were set and, intriguingly, the top 20 cars (yes, 20!) were all within a second of each other. With that in mind, strategy would become key for the race.

With that in mind I decided to split my strategy. Young but talented newbie G Taylor would run a two stop race, predominantly on the hard tyre but with a stint on mediums toward the end. Thompson would run a three-stopper, involving stints on the soft compound. The key issue will depend on temperature. Melbourne is the venue that hosts the Australian Grand Prix and the temperature looked set to be low.

Having qualified 13th with Thompson and 23rd with Taylor, after five laps Thompson had seasawed and was 11th with Taylor still 23rd. Schumacher was nearly seven seconds ahead of the chasing pack. By lap 7 the gap was eight seconds, but how would the supersofts hold out? Thompson was up to 9th for me.

Schumacher dropped to 14th after pitting and this promoted J Bernard, on soft tyres, into the lead. Further stops and suddenly I had Thompson in the top four! In fact, at one stage Thompson was leading, but it was short-lived. Meanwhile, Taylor was leaden with fuel on long hard tyre runs, which in hindsight hurt his race. He would fail to score any points, whilst Thompson would finish 7th (pretty good, but the target was 6th). Bernard won for Badger Racing with last season’s champ D Thompson (there’s a few Thompsons) was second for Black Arrows. Dudek of 221op completed the podium.

I don’t know if my aim to win a race is feasible, but with each race will come improvements to the car. We shall see.

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