Author Archives: Rees Evans

Formula 1: Drive To Survive – Season 3 Episode 1 “Cash Is King” Review

In what has become a staple of pre-season Formula One, a new series of Netflix’s much-anticipated ‘Formula One: Drive To Survive’ arrived on the streaming platform last Friday with ten brand-new episodes.

Here we will look at the opening episode, ‘Cash Is King’.

Series Three kicks things off on a playful note, with some of the series’ main protagonists joking around with a clapperboard, before jumping straight into a rapid-fire montage of last year’s big moments and stories. A rather ominous line from Sebastian Vettel – “competing against the best, that’s one thing; trying to do it with Ferrari is another one” – at the end teases nicely the drama and conflict still to come.

After this brief refresher, it’s off to Barcelona for pre-season testing, where all talk is about Racing Point and their “new” car.

Under New Management

From there, the series jumps back six months as we descend into the bowels of Racing Point itself. The shows offers up a portrait of new team owner Lawrence Stroll, plus a brief glimpse at his working relationship with Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer.

Formula1.com

The picture the series paints of the Canadian Billionaire is almost cartoon-like: a ruthless businessman whose time is precious – someone who’s always on the move and who demands and expects nothing but the absolute best. He’s certainly an imposing figure, coming across as more mafia boss than team boss.

The brief snapshot we get of his relationship with Racing Point Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer also suggests all the frostiness that’s on display between himself and Williams Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams in Series 1, when son Lance was racing for the team. Szafnauer certainly doesn’t appear 100% comfortable around his new boss if their short exchange at the team’s car launch is anything to go by.

READ MORE: In the Pitlane – Stroll Seals the Big Deal again

Whether this is a true representation of their working relationship or not, though, is difficult to tell, given that Box To Box Films have routinely taken liberties with the truth to elevate the drama. Using over-the-top sound effects and sped-up footage to heighten the spectacle is fine.

Where it becomes a problem, however, is when subtle forms of manipulation, such as clever editing, are used to twist and reframe events to suit a desired narrative, leaving everything of interest with an annoying question mark over its accuracy.

READ MORE: Formula 1 2021 Season Preview – Will Mercedes Finally be Beaten?

Returning to pre-season testing, we spend a brief spell with McLaren, much of which is spent with British driver Lando Norris as he prepares for his sophomore year. It’s not long, though, before we’re back with Racing Point, as rival teams begin to set their sights on the team’s controversial 2020 challenger.

One interesting aspect of this episode is the way the looming threat of Coronavirus is handled, with small references to the coming pandemic littered throughout.

First, a conversation between Daniel Ricciardo and his mum, Grace Riccardo, regarding his use – or lack of use – of a face mask. Later on, Szafnaeur makes his way to the Racing Point car launch, a moment that feels more like a deleted scene from the start of Contagion than a few seconds from Drive To Survive. These two moments in particular create a sense of dramatic irony that builds all the way through to the eve of the first race.

Roll On Melbourne

And it is the opening race, the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne – or rather, everything leading up to it – that serves as the episode’s natural climax, as the coronavirus pandemic enters from stage left. We finally get a glimpse of how everything played out from the inside: the rumours, the whispers of potential cases, the confusion, followed by the news many had feared: a McLaren team member testing positive.

Image: Getty Images

The sense of confusion and disappointment following the cancellation of the race is palpable, as the fans outside make their frustrations known, with teams big and small left with concerns over their immediate and long-term futures.

As opening episodes go, Episode 1: Cash Is King is a serviceable start to what I imagine was a particularly difficult series for Box To Box Films given the limited access and footage available to them. The episode jumps around a lot, both from team to team and in time, asking a lot of the viewer, but does successfully set up the main players and storylines to come. Jennie Gow also serves as a welcome addition alongside series regular Will Buxton.

F1 2020 Game: A Radical Solution that could make for a Great Game Mode

If there is one topic in Formula 1 that is guaranteed to spark debate and it is how best to improve the show.

Everyone has a different answer, from the sensible – less tyre management, simpler engines – to the more radical – binning blue flags entirely.

In a Motorsport Magazine article last year, Tony Dodgins put forward one such radical solution: a proper drivers’ championship where drivers are rotated between teams during the season, rather than driving for a single outfit.

While perhaps too radical for real-life F1, it would certainly make for an interesting new mode alongside Codemasters’ usual fare.

A True Drivers’ Championship

A season where every driver gets the opportunity to get behind the wheel of each car at least twice could provide a truly dynamic championship battle. The ebb and flow of results provided by drivers swapping machinery each weekend would throw major swings into the championship table.

Drivers would pick in last year’s championship order, with the World Champion picking 1st for every round. 2nd place would then pick their team, followed by 3rd and so on. For the final three races, drivers could pick again in either the same order or current championship order, with the championship leader picking first.

READ MORE: THE PROBLEM WITH WRC COVERAGE

This reimagining of what a Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship could be could force the player to make some interesting and difficult decisions when it comes to selecting which car to take in each round.

Tough Decisions

Where and when do you play the Ferrari?

If you’re playing as Hamilton, which races do you decide to take in the Williams? And which do you decide to take in the Mercedes? These are all questions that players will have to decide for themselves to ensure they achieve the greatest possible haul of points.

A weekend in the Mercedes is an opportunity to take maximum points. An outing in a slower car, such as the Williams or HAAS, is all about damage limitation, where a single point is a victory unto itself.

READ MORE: 2021 LE MANS HYPERCAR REGULATIONS EXPLAINED

For Monaco, do you go with the Red Bull and try to make up the difference to the faster Mercedes with skill alone? Or do you try to pull a slower car into the points at a track where the driver can make the difference?

The likelihood of you actually making it through Turn 1 in each car at each track would also be an important element to consider. Something else to take on board are your chances of actually finishing that race in that car. A retirement in a Mercedes would be incredibly more costly than parking an Alfa Romeo.

READ MORE: THE DEVIL’S IN THE DATA: WHAT PEREZ COULD BRING TO RED BULL

Add to this the likelihood of the Safety Car making an appearance, or it raining during qualifying or the race, along with the component management system that exists in the main career mode, and there is potentially a lot of strategic depth there.

How would you play your hand? How would the car you’re in change how you approach certain races?

Something On The Side

Given that Codemasters has already introduced driver transfers, I imagine a mode like this shouldn’t prove too difficult to implement.

The Riskiest Sundays: a weekend in a Mercedes could end in glory… or tears.

There are certainly some things that would need to be fully thought through, such as how many races ahead drivers can pick their cars for and whether they can change their selection once it’s locked in, amongst other things.

It would certainly provide a new way to play a season, managing risk and reward as you hop in and out of different seats, scraping together the maximum points your car will allow at each venue.

READ MORE: WHY FORMULA 1 NEEDS TO BE FREE TO AIR

And what better time to introduce it than after a year where we’ve seen numerous drivers, including George Russell and Nico Hulkenberg, called up at last minute to perform in machinery they’re in no way familiar with.

For the die-hard purists, it’s a nonsense, a waste of time and resources that could be better spent on improving the already stellar first-in-class career mode. But if it could be done on the side, with little time or effort required to get it out the door, it could be just the thing to jump into once you’ve burned through the more serious stuff the game has to offer.

F1 2020 Game: Why we need better pit stop information in 2021

Since Codemasters’ first Formula 1 game effort back in 2009, the series has gone from strength to strength. This is due to their commitment to build on each yearly release rather than splash a new coat of paint on the previous outing with only minor tweaks.

When it comes to new features, every fan has a different wish list. Some would like to see the inclusion of pre-season testing; others would quite like a more substantial livery editor or improvements to the ‘My Team’ mode.

Since it’s nearly Christmas, here is the start of my wishlist: the things I’d love to see included in a future F1 title!

Better Pitstop Information

This isn’t so much a feature, but a fix to a minor problem that’s bugged me. It wouldn’t be the most exciting addition to the game, but I think it could really improve the overall race experience.

Currently, the MFD Pitstop Page provides the player with two pieces of information: the pitstop window for the set of tyres you are on, and the race position you would come out in if you stopped now.

The first part is useful: you need to know around about what lap you need to come in to make the strategy work. The race position you will re-emerge in, though, is next to useless if you don’t know what exactly you are being dropped back into.

Say, for example, that the MFD tells you that you’ll be coming out in 12th position. That could mean a number of different things.

READ MORE: IN THE PIT LANE – F1 SEEING DOLLAR SIGNS

You could come out directly behind a driver on hard tyres who won’t be pitting for some time. At a circuit where track position is key, such as Monaco or Catalunya, that could prove incredibly costly. Or you could be parachuted into traffic and have to pick through backmarkers – again, costing you vital time.

The game doesn’t tell you how far ahead or behind another car you’ll be at pit exit, or what tyres they’re on – both crucial pieces of information when you’re adjusting strategy on the fly.

Why this would make a difference

If you had access to better timing information, perhaps through some form of on-screen graphic, you might decide to extend your stint to clear a certain driver or group of drivers before pitting.

Admittedly, overtaking is far easier in the game than in real life. Even at a track where it is notoriously difficult to pass like Zandvoort, you can overtake. Getting stuck behind another driver could still hurt your race, though. And it should, if realism is the aim.

READ MORE: IN THE PIT LANE – FORMULA 1’S CONFLICT OF INTERESTS

As features go, I don’t think it would be that hard to implement as everything needed is already there in the game. Admittingly, I know nothing about game development, but I did come up with an analogue solution a few years ago to satisfy my curiosity.

How it could be implemented

I’d start by working out how long a pitstop is at a particular track. Then I’d drive a lap at race speed and watch the video back. Stopwatch in hand, I’d work out where I’d be 20-23 seconds down the road after passing a distinct feature on the full track map, such as the start/finish line.

If we used Spa as an example, I’d start the stopwatch at La Source and see the amount of time it takes to complete a pitstop. If I found myself on a stretch of track where I had enough time to glance at the track map, I’d pick out an on-track marker and jump into the race.

By using the track map like this, I was able to see exactly what I’d be dropped back into if I came into the pits.

READ MORE: IN THE PIT LANE – SAFETY DOESN’T HAPPEN BY ACCIDENT

It worked better at some tracks than it did at others, but it was a simple way of seeing where I was in relation to the other cars a pitstop behind me. Undercuts and Overcuts weren’t just blind luck anymore, but things I could monitor by consulting the track map.

A more refined pitstop display that clearly communicates the race landscape you’ll re-emerge into after a pitstop could really improve the overall race experience for players. It’s not the sort of shiny, new feature that’s going to move units the same way the addition of Formula 3 might, but it’s a quality of life improvement that could really add to what’s already there.

F1 Blast From The Past: Kobayashi Stuns On Debut

A Formula 1 debut is a special thing. It’s a driver stepping onto the world stage and saying “this is who I am and this is what I can do – take notice”. Whether it be a shot in the fastest car on the grid, or just an opportunity to take part, first impressions are everything.

The 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix saw three such debuts. Two drivers who had never raced in Formula 1 before, in Williams’ Jack Aitken and Haas’ Pietro Fittipaldi, took to the starting grid for the first time. The third was George Russell, who was finally given the chance to squeeze into the coveted Mercedes seat to show the world exactly what he can do.

For Aitken and Fittipaldi, there wasn’t much to write home about.

George Russell in the Mercedes, though, was another story. Quickly ushered into the vacant Mercedes seat to fill in for seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton. He impressed from the get-go, easily challenging Bottas for top honours in what was surely his opening act in a Mercedes.

It was an electric performance, made all the more impressive by his lack of experience behind the wheel of the W11 – a car he’d never turned a wheel in until Friday.

His debut now stands alongside the all-time best: Hamilton in ’07. Verstappen winning first stab in the works Red Bull in ’16. Schumacher at Spa in ’91. All great performances, all great debuts.

When it comes to the ballsiest entrance in recent years though, that honour can only ever go to one man: parachuted into the Toyota for the final two races of the 2009 season, Mr. Kamui Kobayashi.

Elbows Out, No Prisoners

Kobayashi made his Formula 1 debut at the 2009 Brazilian Grand Prix. The Japanese driver was filling in for an injured Timo Glock, who had been side-lined after a heavy crash in qualifying at Suzuka the race before.

Glock’s nasty crash in Japan ruled him out for the remainder of the season

A solid effort on the Saturday put him 11th on the grid, only just missing out on Q3 in a rain-sodden qualifying session. It would be in the race, though, where Kobayashi truly came alive. After a collision on the first lap that claimed three cars, and a pass on Kazuki Nakajima’s Williams off the restart, Kobayashi was up to sixth.

Behind though, Jenson Button was carving through the field, making easy work of Romain Grosjean and Kazuki Nakajima. A few laps later, he was on to the back of Kobayashi.

READ MORE: FORMULA 1 ANNOUNCES SAUDI GP, BUT DO WE REALLY RACE AS ONE?

But the Japanese driver wasn’t such easy pickings. An early send up the inside nearly got the move done for the World Champion-elect, but Kobayashi emphatically hung onto the position around the outside.

Button haunted his mirrors for the next 17 laps, but the young Toyota man, in his first ever Grand Prix, didn’t put a foot wrong. Despite immense pressure, Kobayashi appeared unfazed.

READ MORE: CHARLES LECLERC: F1’S NEXT NEW WORLD CHAMPION

And when Button finally slipped through on Lap 24, Kobayashi found some more victims to play with. He immediately repassed fellow compatriot Nakajima around the outside of Turn 1 after falling victim to him on the pit-straight.

Then later on in the race, dive-bombed Giancarlo Fisichella for 10th, a move he’d put to good use in later seasons. The new kid on the block certainly wasn’t afraid to get stuck in.

READ MORE: IN THE PIT LANE – FORMULA 1’S CONFLICT OF INTERESTS

Kobayashi went on to finish a respectable 10th in his maiden Grand Prix, but it was his brawl with Button in the early stages that had everyone talking. Here was a driver in his first race comfortably going wheel-to-wheel with some of the best in Formula 1. For a rookie, it was mightily impressive.

Not a flash in the pan

Two weeks later in Abu Dhabi, Kobayashi and Button found themselves fighting over the same piece of track again. This time, it was Kobayashi that came out on top.

As the chequered flag fell on the 2009 season, the young Japanese driver had well and truly established himself as one to watch for the future.

READ MORE: IN THE PIT LANE – SAFETY DOESN’T HAPPEN BY ACCIDENT

Two strong outings with Toyota were enough to land him a drive with Sauber for the following season, where he put in some stunning drives, most notably at Valencia and Suzuka. Two years later in 2012, he’d secure his first and only podium on home soil, the first Japanese driver to do so in 22 years.

Kobayashi will always be remembered for his Hollywood-style overtakes and merciless approach to wheel-to-wheel racing. But his gutsy drives at the tail end of the 2009 season will also live on as one of the greatest debut performances in recent years.

Fast. Aggressive. Ruthless. It was a perfect display of talent and style, a mix any driver looking to cause a stir in Formula 1 would do well to emulate.

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more content to preview your Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend?  Host George Howson with panellists Mikael Kataja, Alex Booth and Garry Sloan stared in Grid Talk’s Abu Dhabi Prix Preview.  Video and audio versions of the show are linked below:

The Devil’s In The Data: What Perez Could Bring To Red Bull

In the low-grip tightrope act that was the 2020 Turkish Grand Prix, Sergio Perez reminded the world why he is still a driver any team would do well to pursue.

Not that the world needed reminding, despite somewhat of a chequered season for the Racing Point man.

Having stopped for Intermediates on Lap 10, Perez nursed his tyres to the line to claim a well-deserved 2nd place finish. This was Checo’s first podium since the 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

This was yet another great drive by the Mexican, who is still without a seat for the 2021 season. There is a notable space still unfilled for next year though, the second Red Bull seat. Here’s why we believe Perez needs to replace Albon.

Why Perez is the man Red Bull need

Turkey was an impressive drive, a masterclass in both patience and focus, enabled by a unique ability few can match. If Red Bull are on the lookout for a new driver, Perez is certainly the man to have.

Two former teammates are vying for the second Red Bull seat in 2021

While Nico Hulkenberg is perhaps more capable of chasing Verstappen on a Saturday afternoon, Perez more than makes up for it on Sunday.

READ MORE: DANIIL KVYAT: NOT DONE YET

The pair were teammates at Force India between 2014-2016 and it was
nip and tuck between them. Hulkenberg dominated their first campaign together (96 points to Perez’s 59), before Perez struck back, becoming Force India’s main breadwinner in their final two years as teammates.

A Delicate Touch

Sergio Perez can save his tyres probably better than anybody else on the Formula 1 grid. This is an opinion shared by Racing Point Technical Director Andrew Green:

“Once Checo gets into rhythm on a Sunday afternoon, he’s absolutely one of the best. I think he’s one of the few drivers who really excelled on tyre management and being able to read the car.”

This ability to stretch the life out of any given set of tyres has allowed Perez to rack up a total of nine podiums in his ten years in the sport. These were all in midfield cars that had no real business being in the top three.

READ MORE: F1 2020: THE YEAR OF THE HONEYBADGER

By comparison, Hulkenberg is yet to stand on even its lowest rung. Bad
luck has certainly played its part in the German’s case (Monaco 2016 being one such example), but Hulkenberg has also thrown away a number of chances himself (Brazil 2012, Germany 2019).

The Gain For Red Bull

For Red Bull, signing Sergio Perez could mean the return of that crucial second Chess piece. With a driver that can go long and keep the tyres alive, Red Bull are granted greater tactical options, a luxury they haven’t had since the departure of Daniel Riccardo at the end of 2018.

With no rear gunner for Verstappen, Red Bull have been fighting Mercedes with one arm tied behind their back.

READ MORE: F1 ANNOUNCES SAUDI GP, BUT DO WE REALLY RACE AS ONE?

It certainly cost Verstappen victory in last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix, when a gap that should have been occupied by a Red Bull awarded Mercedes the opportunity of stopping Hamilton for fresh Mediums to hunt down Verstappen.

Having two cars in play again will undoubtedly make things easier for the team and allow them to pick up more points on Sundays.

The Benefit For Verstappen


The importance of tyre management in F1 cannot be overstated. Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton’s recent duels have showcased this. It’s allowed Hamilton to take a second stab at the Bottas on-track later in the race.

Being able to successfully manage the tyres grants driver and team greater tactical options, such as making fewer pitstops, or extending a stint to gain a tyre advantage over rivals.

READ MORE: THE PROBLEM WITH WRC COVERAGE

In a sport where success is so dependent on the quality of the machinery available, it is one of the few areas where a driver can really make the difference.

Perez has revealed that much of his tyre-whispering ability he attributes to lessons learnt in his first two years in Formula 1 driving alongside Kamui Kobayashi at Sauber.

“He was really amazing. I learned a lot from him on how to work with the tyres. He has a good experience with the Japanese, they are always good on tyres. That was good for me to learn from him.”

Such an admittance from Perez seems to suggest that he hasn’t always been such a tyre maestro – that in fact, his ability to manage the tyres is as much learned skill as natural ability.

READ MORE: FINAL STAGE OF FIA GIRLS ON TRACK – RISING STARS UNDERWAY

If this is the case, could Perez do for Verstappen what Kobayashi did for him?

It’s not so much a question of whether Verstappen needs the help, though. It’s more a question of whether having Perez in the team can push him even further.

Jenson Button has also singled out Perez’s remarkable ability to protect the rear tyres in traction zones. The 2009 World Champion also added that Perez was the teammate that surprised him the most in his 17-year career:

“Certain circuits didn’t work for him, circuits that had front-limitation didn’t work for him, but circuits that had rear-limitation, like Bahrain, worked very well for him and he was extremely quick.”

How Verstappen could adapt

Even if Perez isn’t forthcoming with any secrets he might have, Verstappen will always have his data to sift through.

It is not yet clear what Red Bull will do. Maybe Albon will do enough in the three remaining races to hold on to his seat. The team appear to be fully behind their Thai driver, insisting that his future is very much in his hands.

Perhaps time spent with Perez will allow Verstappen to challenge for the world title

Yet, as always in Formula 1, rumours/whispers continue to circulate.

What is clear, though, is that if Verstappen is to take on the now greatest driver of all time in the prime of his career, he is going to need every possible advantage he can get.

Sergio Perez might be able to provide one such advantage.

The Problem With WRC Coverage

The World Rally Championship has always had a problem when it comes to TV coverage. With the sheer amount of competitive running that makes up a single round, the question of how best to roll out three and a half days’ worth of action to fans has always been a perennial concern.

Up until the introduction of WRC+ All Live, the only port of call for rally fans were highlights. For pure rallying spectacle, they certainly ticked all the boxes: stunning vistas, coastlines and forests attacked by machines travelling at unimaginable speeds. Art in motion.

READ MORE: F1 2020: The Year of the HoneyBadger

They also provided – and continue to provide for a great many fans – a solid overview of the action, be it in a heavily condensed form lacking the depth craved by a true obsessive.

Now, though, with the unbridled access provided by the WRC’s own OTT service, rally fans are treated to hours of quality content every time a group of lunatics decide to hurl themselves at a forest.

VISUALLY STUNNING: WRC is a true spectacle to behold. Image: WRC

On air from the morning through to the evening, with live commentary across all stages, the only breather granted to fans are the short 15-20 road sections that break up the action.

For the hardcore rally fan, it’s the only way to watch. But if round-the-clock coverage sounds like a bit too much, one needn’t worry: all content is available online to catch up on until roughly a week before the next event.

READ MORE: F1 ANNOUNCES SAUDI GP, BUT DO WE REALLY RACE AS ONE?

With a commentary team as passionate and knowledgeable as the one found on WRC+, you will always come away having learnt something new, be it the importance of road order or the weight of a spare tyre.

Two completely different ways to watch: one short and sweet; the other lengthy and in-depth, requiring hours to watch from start to finish.

And therein lies the problem: they’re two absolute extremes of rally coverage – there is simply no middle of the road alternative, something that is neither a quick-fix nor an all-out time-sink.

Time For A Rethink

A rethink of what rally highlights could be could not only provide fans with another way to watch but, potentially, the ‘best’ way to watch, given that both approaches have their shortcomings.

The issue with WRC+ All Live is obvious, the hours required to get through it all is the biggest obstacle. With highlights, though, an understandable lack of depth aside, there is another problem that hurts the overall viewing experience. It is something perhaps best illustrated by an example.

Channel 5 highlights, Monte Carlo, 2018. Kris Meeke barrels down an icy road in the dead of night. Suddenly, a voice pipes up: ‘Kris Meeke came unstuck, too’. A few seconds past. Moments later, the Irishman is facing the wrong way, having misjudged the conditions on one of ‘Monty’s’ infamously treacherous roads.

Did you notice the problem? We are teased something happening moments before it does.

As soon as Jon Desborough (brilliant as he is) starts talking, you know something is going to happen. It might be big, it might be small – but something is going to happen. Like watching a film with a friend who takes it upon himself to inform you of all the ‘cool’ moments right before they happen; or who recommends a film because ‘there’s this great twist at the end that you just won’t see coming’.

Only showing clips that are interesting or relevant in some way achieves a similar effect: when you know that what you are watching is only being shown because ‘something’ happens in it, you simply cannot be surprised in the same way.

READ MORE: TOP 10 MEMES OF THE F1 2020 EMILIA ROMAGNA GP

Watching the action after it has taken place will never be able to compete with the live experience. But the way highlights are currently put together certainly doesn’t help matters.

It takes rally from present tense, enjoyed by those watching live on WRC+, where anything could happen at any time; to past tense, where, over select cuts of the day’s action, an omniscient narrator teases these things happening moments before they do.

A New Approach To Rally Highlights

What’s needed is a new approach to highlights editing, something more akin to the way Formula 1 Extended Highlight are done on Channel 4.

The aim should be to replicate the live experience as much as possible by doing away with a narrator (instead opting for the live commentary track) and cutting stages down to within inches of their lives.

READ MORE: F1 BLAST FROM THE PAST: SCHUMACHER AND ALONSO DUEL

These edited stages should still show all the big moments. But they should also include a healthy dose of the more mundane – the ‘non-moments’.

Perhaps a program like this just isn’t possible, though. Perhaps it’s nothing more than a naive fantasy born of ignorance of the demands of television. Perhaps. But it’s certainly worth a try.