Archive for the ‘Features’ Category

I’ve been enjoying working with the leading F1 photographer Darren Heath this season.

He has a fantastic eye and always gets an original view on a Grand Prix weekend. We are experimenting with ways we can work together on content and this is a Flickr slideshow with my captions.

For maximum impact, expand it to full screen and click on “Show info” to get the captions. (You will need the latest Flash plug-in installed and your browsers might prefer to go directly to the JAF1 Flickr pages)
Vodpod videos no longer available.

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How can our sport identify and nurture the best driving talents and bring them to F1? What is the best way to evaluate a young driver?

One of the eye catching lines Bernie Ecclestone came out with recently in an interview with my Financial Times colleague Christian Sylt was a dismissal of the revived Formula 2 series as merely something Max Mosley came up with when he was going through “a problem with his private life “ last summer. It was “all done for the wrong reasons,” he said.

While it is true that F2 was announced in the midst of the Mosley/News of the World situation, on closer inspection it is a serious project and it could turn out to be a threat to GP2, which is why Bernie was scathing. I spent some time recently with the man charged with running the series for the FIA, ex F1 driver Jonathan Palmer, and got a look at what he and the FIA think is the model for the future of motor sport.

Bringing a driver up to F1 level is very expensive; it costs £600,000 for a season of Formula 3 and an eye watering £1.3 million for a season of GP2. Admittedly the GP2 is a good show; the racing is exciting, the series supports all the European Grands Prix and has a strong TV package because it is sold with F1 to rights holders. So it’s high profile and gives the drivers 24 races a season. There is a lot of value there.

But in this climate young drivers will find it much harder to raise £1.3 from family, friends and sponsors because everyone is hurting for cash at the moment.

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I read a fascinating article this weekend by a writer called Malcolm Gladwell, whose new book “The story of success” looks at what creates success in many walks of life.

He describes some studies by psychologists into music students and concludes that however much talent someone has at something, what makes the difference between them becoming a stand out or an also ran is practice and opportunity. Amazingly the studies couldn’t find any “naturals” – people whose natural ability allowed them to be better than the rest on a fraction of the practice. It’s talent and practice which make a genius. By the age of 20 all top musicians had done 10,000 hours of practice and those that hadn’t were already doomed.

Delving deeper, he finds that the same is true of sportsmen and women too, that magic figure of 10,000 hours comes up again and again. It is the number required to hit true expertise in a field. It is a huge amount of time, equivalent to twenty hours per week for ten years.

It got me thinking about racing drivers, especially modern ones. Since the rules were relaxed to allow children to start karting at the age of 8, many drivers have been able to focus their lives on racing from a very early on and are hugely practiced by the time they arrive in F1 at 21 or 22. And that is why drivers like Hamilton and Kubica can perform as they do from the start of their F1 careers.

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Just back from a press conference at the Landmark Hotel, London, where Bernie Ecclestone said more about the proposed “medals” scheme in F1 and announced that LG the consumer electronics group, will sponsor F1 next year. You as viewers will be very aware of this deal as you watch, because the timing graphics, which appear on screen every 20 seconds of so will be LG branded. I think they will also sponsor the rev counter graphic you see on screen. They will develop F1 branded telies and other products off the back of the deal.

The deal was put together by Just Marketing, who also pulled in Johnnie Walker, Hilton Hotels and Lenovo to F1. Interestingly the event was fronted by BBC’s new F1 anchor Jake Humphreys, with whom I had an enjoyable chat. He’s a decent bloke, from the looks of things and he’s followed the sport for a while, so he’s not without knowledge. And he must be a sharp operator as he got himself a nice little earner today before he’s even hosted an F1 show!

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I’ve had a peach of a comment from AK, in response to the posting yesterday about the new BBC team.

He says: “I’ve just been pointed here by someone who said “I know none of us like James Allen as a commentator, but check this blog out anyway”. It’s won over a large number of people who would have clicked it with the mindset “let’s all laugh at the guy crying over his P45″ and the unanimous opinion is that we all like your writing a lot and are looking forward to you having more time for it – and if you can win over heartless bastards like us you must be bloody good at it. There’s also several people who are going to or already have bought your Schumi book because of this…”

Well, if you say so, A.K. who am I to disagree! I love the spirit of this comment so much, I shall send a signed copy of the Schuey book to AK as my first “comment of the week” winner… If you prefer, AK, you can have a rare, unsigned copy!

In all seriousness, it has been gratifying to see how quickly this space is developing as a forum for informed and passionate Formula 1 talk. I am enjoying this new opportunity to interact with other fans and I just wish I had started it a little earlier. Maybe I would have won over more people like A.K. sooner.


Anyway never mind, now that I have started, I have developed a taste for it, and so I can reveal that I am busy working on a cunning plan to develop this website into something more substantial in time for the new season. So get ready for a lot more in-depth content, interviews, and community features in the near future (there may even be some video content too…)

Updates: if you want to be kept updated with all the changes, be sure to subscribe to the email alerts (top right-hand corner).

And as sad as I may be to not be carrying on the old role next year, I am excited at the opportunity to interact in a more relaxed way with you all going forward.

After Christmas I’ll let you know where else I can be seen, heard and read during the 2009 season…

So here’s to my P45 and beyond! – James

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Thinking ahead to 2009

Back in the UK after the long BA flight from Sao Paulo. It was very quiet on the plane as almost everyone had a hangover and had had little or no sleep. The two parties were the big one thrown by Red Bull at a place called the Mausoleum and a McLaren celebratory bash, near the Hilton in Morumbi. There were probably 3,000 people at the Red Bull do, most of the paddock plus a lot of Brazilian lovelies.

It’s what you expect F1 to be like, but the truth is that only really Red Bull has brought that kind of thing about, probably because it is Mateschitz’s idea of what F1 should be all about!  But I hear that they are cutting back next year so no more £1 million parties. They had hired Gorillaz to play, the animated band which is a side project of Blur’s Damon Albarn. I love their music, but they were rubbish live, lots of incoherent shouting into mikes and no sign of Albarn. The other party was worth looking in on.

Next season has already started. It will be very different with completely new-looking cars, slick tyres, driver-adjustable front wings and KERS. Ross Brawn told us on Saturday evening that you can use KERS at the start of the race, once the car has reached 100km/h, which is about 2 seconds after the lights go out. The driver will be able to hit the push to pass button and this will give 2-3 car lengths advantage compared with a car not using KERS. Toyota have said that they will not run their system until mid season, so they will be left behind at the race starts. [ more ]

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New This Week

Stefano Domenicali, Robert Kubica and Vijay Mallya

Check out all the new features uploaded this week, which include an in-depth profile of Ferrari’s new boss, Stefano Domenicali, I get to see what’s cooking with Robert Kubica and we test our mathematics skills with the paddock’s top strategists.

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