Tag Archives: F1

Testing times for McLaren as F1 teams pack their cars for season opener

Only two men in history have ever clinched a third successive Formula One World Championship before attempting to defend it. The last time Michael Schumacher went about the feat with Ferrari, it didn’t go much better than his disastrous three-year comeback with Mercedes. One win – against only his team-mate and the back-of-the-grid Jordans and Minardis, in the bizarre 2005 United States Grand Prix – was all he managed. It was a year in which the prancing horse failed to grapple with a rule demanding drivers make a set of tyres last the entire race distance.

For his fellow countryman Sebastian Vettel – now a triple World Champion at just 25 – managing the latest spec Pirelli tyres will once again provide the biggest challenge of the season ahead. And after it was deemed last year’s rubber was ‘too good’, the drivers can expect more rapidly degrading tyres in 2013 – the kind of which Pirelli promised and delivered when they became the sole tyre supplier two years ago.

Good news, then, for McLaren, who arguably possess the driver line-up best able at preserving tyres, which others might rip to shreds within a matter of laps. Joining the silky-smooth 2009 World Champion Jenson Button at the team’s Woking HQ is Sergio Perez. The 23 year-old Mexican impressed in his two-year stint at Sauber – particularly at Monza last year, when he made his first set of tyres last until lap 30, thus enabling him to climb from 13th on the grid to second on the podium.

Unfortunately for the team in search of its first Constructors’ Championship in 15 years, the general consensus is that the Woking-based team will not be the pace setters at the opening race in Melbourne. Beginning the season off the pace has not been an uncommon theme for McLaren in recent years, but their ability to develop a sluggish car is well documented. With the most experienced driver on the grid in Button, it would take a brave man to bet against McLaren turning their seemingly poor testing form around.

One man who won’t be hoping for an upturn in McLaren’s pace is Lewis Hamilton. After six seasons and 21 wins, the Stevenage-born 2008 World Champion has moved onto pastures new with Mercedes. On the final weekend of the testing in Barcelona, Hamilton and team-mate Nico Rosberg lit up the time sheets with blistering pace. Hamilton, though, has been keen to play down expectations all winter, saying: “we will definitely be able to win a race at some point.” You’d hope so. With only one win since the championship-winning Brawn team was bought out by the German manufacturer three years ago, anything less than two wins in 2013 will be a massive disappointment for the Silver Arrows.

Joining Hamilton, Button and Force India’s Paul di Resta in Formula One this year is Marussia’s Max Chilton, making it four British drivers on the grid for the first time since the 2008 Spanish Grand Prix. The 21 year-old from Reigate won races in GP2 last year and had a successful outing during practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. But with four other rookies out to impress – in what is a relatively inexperienced field, with no drivers who competed in the 20th century remaining – Chilton will have to work hard to keep his seat into a second season.

In the midfield, preseason testing form suggests it will be as tight as ever. Like Mercedes, Lotus and Williams will be hoping to build on their solitary wins of 2012. But reliability issues and a general lack of mileage, respectively, make it hard to gauge how regularly they will be challenging the front runners.

As far as the championship is concerned, a repeat battle between Vettel and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso is looking likely.

The Spaniard drove magnificently last season, dragging a car into championship contention that frankly had no place to be fighting the might of Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull. There is no doubt that start-line accidents in Belgium and Japan – for which he shared no blame – denied him the World Championship.

But rather than hope for better luck, a vastly improved car from the one designed at Maranello this time last year will be a more reliable way of ensuring the 2005/06 World Champion secures a third world title. Alonso sounds happy so far, declaring the F138 “200 times better” than the F2012 chassis. Let’s hope he’s right. For without a giant leap forward in car design, the prancing horse will remain inferior to the charging Red Bull. Even in Alonso’s hands.

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F1 traveller’s guide: Hungarian Grand Prix

The Hungarian Grand Prix joined the Formula One calendar in 1986.

The tight, twisty Hungaroring circuit near Budapest is now an established venue on the F1 calendar and a demanding test for the drivers.

There is barely a moment for the drivers to relax on this 14 turn, 4.3 kilometre track over 70 demanding laps.

The 14 turn Hungaroring track lies 19 kilometres outside Budapest

The 14 turn Hungaroring track lies 19 milometres outside the Hungarian capital, Budapest

Due to its usual scheduling in deep into the summer months, the drivers and fans can normally expect scorching temperatures.

However in 2006 it was an unusually wet race that helped Jenson Button secure his maiden Grand Prix win at his 113th attempt.

There have been some other similarly memorable Hungarian Grands Prix down the years, too.

At the 1992 event, Nigel Mansell achieved his lifetime dream of becoming Formula One World Champion and year later Damon Hill claimed his maiden win.

Few people can forget the 1997 race, though, when Hill, driving the Arrows, fought his way past Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari, only to later relinquish his lead with mechanical trouble.

Those memorable races aside, the circuit developed a reputation for delivering dull racing, with little opportunity to overtake.

But with the advent of KERS, DRS and the new generation Pirelli tyres, as with most circuit, this has changed and the racing has improved.

So, what do F1 fans who want to go to the Hungaroring need to know.

Following Anthony French’s low-down on the Monaco Grand Prix experience last time, in this second edition of my F1 travellers’ guide, Briony Dixon – who has attended the Hungarian Grand Prix on a number of occasions – gives her hints and tips for fans seeking advice on how to get to this ever popular Grand Prix in Budapest.

Travel

“For me, once the passionate and energetic atmosphere of the Hungaroring had been experienced, it was inevitable that it would become an annual visit, hence tickets for the 2013 Hungarian Grand Prix being booked back in October.

“Each of my three visits so far have been arranged independently and travel to Budapest and subsequently to the track have varied each time.

“The first time, we flew to Budapest then hired a car as the circuit lies approximately 25km away from the city. The second visit was the final destination of a road trip across Europe so again, we drove from the city to the circuit.

“Reaching the circuit by car from Budapest is easy because it is straight down the motorway.

“However, once you enter the circuit, queues start to form as cars filter into the car parks. Leaving an hour for this is advisable, especially for qualifying and race day, more may be needed if you arrive later.

“Being in a queue at the Hungaroring is the best type of queue you will ever experience, providing you leave enough time, because you will be surrounded by fans walking to the circuit waving flags and chanting.

“This coupled with the sound of the helicopters overhead stirs your excitement and ignites your passion. Driving to the circuit can definitely be recommended and parking is free.

“Last year we spiced travelling to the circuit up a little in the form of the free shuttle bus from Arpad Bridge metro station in Budapest.  If you enjoy a good crushing and a brisk walk to and from the circuit from the drop off point, then this is the form of travel for you.

“Getting to the circuit isn’t too bad, neither is coming back on the Friday and Saturday, as fans trickle out of the circuit at different times.

“Race day, however, is another story.  With the Formula One race being the finale of the weekend, everyone leaves at the same time, making getting on to a bus rather unpleasant.

“On the positive side, it is a free service and runs fairly frequently.

At the circuit

“When you buy a weekend ticket you are given the opportunity to do the Thursday pit walk.

The Thursday pit lane walkabout allows you to see right into the garages

The Thursday pit lane walkabout allows fans to see right into the garages

“The circuit is opened between 4 o’clock and 7 o’clock and allows the fans a chance to walk along the pit lane to see the mechanics in action in the garages.

“There is also a driver signing.  Ensuring you get to the circuit early to get to the front of the queue for this experience is vital because the drivers only sign for a limited time and the pit lane gets severely congested.

Bruno Senna at an driver autograph signing session

Bruno Senna at an driver autograph signing session

“Travel to the circuit on a Thursday is interesting.  The shuttle bus doesn’t run, but there is a train that runs from Ors Vezer Ter station every half an hour.

“Arriving at Mogyrod, there is then an hour long walk to the circuit.  When leaving the circuit they block off certain entrances, including the one you use when you arrived by train.  This meant that we had no idea where we were going to get back to the station, so we followed the advice of stewards at the track which was wrong!

“Having been sent in a particular direction to find the train station, we walked for about 4km, only to then be told we were 10km away!  Befriending some American McLaren fans, between us we finally managed to reach Budapest three bus journeys later.

“The circuit is short so you can walk around the whole thing, the positive side of this being that you can reach the F1 village from wherever you are watching the race.

“I have watched the race from the Gold 2 grandstand on each visit.  Not only is it right above the grid but you also get a great view into the Red Bull garage.

The view from the Gold 2 grandstand

The view from the Gold 2 grandstand

“Taking binoculars is a must and enables you to spy on the other teams in addition to Red Bull.  Changes have been made to the grandstands for 2013 and the old Gold 2 is now included in Gold 1.

“If you want to position yourself in a place with a high chance of seeing some overtaking, then Gold 4 at Turn 1 would be a good choice.

“The track is great for those with general admission tickets as there are vast grassy areas that are elevated enough to gain a good view of the track without being too hilly or uncomfortable.

“Formula One at the Hungaroring is an experience you will never forget and if you are anything like me, is one that will leave a permanent imprint on your heart.”

F1 INSIGHT: Life on the road as an F1 mechanic

Getting a Formula One car to the other side of the world and onto the grid in front of thousands of spectators and millions of television viewers is no simple task.

Before the Lewis Hamilton’s and Sebastian Vettel’s of this world can even think about turning a wheel, there are a myriad of processes that need to happen before an F1 car is ready to race.

In the first edition of my F1 insight series, McLaren Design Engineer Alistair Niven explained the design process – the most essential phase in the development of a Grand Prix car.

The next, crucial job is for the team of mechanics to ensure the car is ready to be tested and then raced.

I’ve been speaking to former Red Bull Racing mechanic Dan Fox about life on the road and the demands of the profession. He started by telling me it was a job he aimed for from a very young age.

“I wanted to become a Formula One mechanic from the around the age of five.”

“My family was involved in motorsport and we always watched the Grand Prix growing up. I went to my first Grand Prix at Silverstone in 1988 and I was hooked.”

But for Dan, the journey to achieve his childhood dream of becoming an F1 mechanic was a long one, involving a lot of hard work and dedication.

“I worked my way up the ladder in the junior formulae, a bit like most F1 drivers”, he said.

“I started off at an indoor kart track called Magna Karta in Milton Keynes while I was at school. While I was working there and doing my GCSE exams I would send letters and CVs to race teams in the area.

The journey to becoming an F1 mechanic was a long one

The journey to becoming an F1 mechanic was a long one

“At the end of 1997 Fred Goddard from Fred Goddard Racing called me over for an interview and I started there in early 1998.

“We ran Formula Ford Zetec cars in the British Championship against the likes of Jenson Button that season. We also had a number of F1 and F3000 cars that we ran for customers in Boss Formula.”

It wasn’t long, though, before Dan started working with some of the stars of the future.

In 1999 he worked in Formula Renault and a year later moved onto British F3, working with Gary Paffet.

The following year was another Formula Renault campaign – this time as a mechanic for current Formula One driver Heikki Kovalainen.

After a few more years in British F3 and the World Sportscar Championship, Dan finally achieved his goal of becoming an F1 mechanic.

His F1 career began with Red Bull Racing in 2005, with whom he would remain for five years, working with the likes of David Coulthard, Mark Webber and reigning World Champion, Sebastian Vettel.

“The job was very much as I expected it to be”, he said.

“Lots of my friends and ex colleagues worked in F1 plus I had read books by Steve Matchett about his time at Benetton.”

Although a familiar environment from his time working up through the ranks, Dan was keen to stress the demands of his role with the Red Bull team.

“The most demanding aspect of the job was the long hours and time spent abroad”, he said.

“When I was in F1 there were no curfews and in those days we had in-season testing.

“Sometimes we would work from 6.45 in the morning through to 4am the following day, for three days in a row at tests and race weekends.

F1 mechanics work flat out during a Grand Prix weekend

F1 mechanics work flat out during a Grand Prix weekend

Dan said it is “difficult for the armchair enthusiast to understand” the demands and pressures that F1 mechanics are under, “but there are many good books out there which give info about what goes on in Formula One.”

“After a Grand Prix ends and TV viewers at home tuck in to their Sunday lunch, F1 personnel are just about to start another days’ work, packing everything away and prepping the cars ready for transport back to the factory or the next race.

“Most teams don’t finish this until midnight.”

In his five years with Red Bull Racing, Dan said his favourite moment was the 2006 Monaco Grand Prix, when David Coulthard picked up a third place finish – a huge achievement then, for a team that has made a habit of winning the Drivers’ and Constructors’ World Championships in recent years.

Monaco 2006 - when the Red Bull Racing team were sponsored by Superman Returns

Monaco 2006 – when the Red Bull Racing team were sponsored by Superman Returns

It was a race weekend when the team were sponsored by the Superman Returns film, and Coulthard duly wore the Superman cape during the podium ceremony.

One of his most challenging tasks as an F1 mechanic, however, came a month later in Montreal.

“We had one hour to change an engine in David Coulthard’s car before the start of the 2006 Canadian Grand Prix, after it had an air leak from part of the pneumatic valve system”, he said.

“Later that season we had a major fuel leak on Christian Klein’s race car at the Hungarian Grand Prix and we could not fix this in time, so we had to use the spare car that day.

“For me, the worst moment, though, was in 2007 when Vettel (then driving for Red Bull’s sister team Toro Rosso) hit Webber during the safety car period at Fuji in the Japanese Grand Prix.

“We could have won that race and Webber had battled to drive with food poisoning.

“That day was a sad day for everyone involved.”

Keeping the tyres warm: F1 mechanics have a lot of responsibilities

Keeping the tyres warm: F1 mechanics have a lot of responsibilities

At the pit stops, Dan was initially responsible for putting one of the front wheels on before he later took charge of the rear jack.

He said his favourite race was Melbourne due to the circuit’s close proximity to the beach, but the facilities and hotels at Imola (which used to host the San Marino Grand Prix) and in Barcelona were “not great.”

Unfortunately for Dan, his F1 career came to an end in 2009. He had recently moved over from the Red Bull race team to the test team, which made him redundant when the ban on in-season testing came into force that year.

Since being made redundant, Dan has set up his own company, Team Fox Racing, based near Buckingham and only a short drive from Silverstone, providing “first class race car preparation at all levels of motorsport.”

His advice to any aspiring F1 mechanic?

“Work hard at school and try to learn a second language, which will help if you make it to Formula One.”

F1 traveller’s guide: Monaco Grand Prix

There’s no doubt about it, the most glamorous event on the Formula One calendar is the Monaco Grand Prix. Ask any Grand Prix driver which race they would like to win and, aside from their home event, they will say Monaco. It was widely regarded as one of motorsport’s crown jewels, along with the Indianapolis 500 and Le Mans 24 Hours.

Overtaking is notoriously difficult around the streets of the principality, but there have been no shortage of classic Monaco Grands Prix over the years.

Nigel Mansell’s titanic battle with Aryton Senna in 1992; the 1996 event in which only four cars finished and Lewis Hamilton’s brush with the barriers on his way to victory in 2008 have been just some of the most memorable Monte Carlo spectacles in recent times.

This year, for the first time in many years, the Monaco Grand Prix will not be available live on terrestrial television.

So what better time for UK F1 fans who have always dreamed of going to the sport’s blue-ribbon event to make the trip and witness the greatest drivers tame the streets at 170 miles per hour.

Following on from my all-you-need-to-know guide to attending the British Grand Prix, in the first edition of my F1 traveller’s guide, Anthony French, who went to the 2006 Monaco Grand Prix shares his experience and provides his hints and tips for fans thinking of going to Monte Carlo for the race.

Travel

“Our travel arrangements were made by myself and those accompanying me, rather than with travel firm who specialise in F1 holidays.

“We included Monaco as part of a longer holiday and had driven down to Nice from the UK.

“Unless you can easily afford to be in Monaco for the weekend I would seriously recommend using either a specialist motorsport tour operator or planning the event as part of a longer stay.

“I’d recommend booking the following Monday off work! Trying to get back to the UK for Monday is very difficult and would not be advised.”

Arriving at the circuit

“I was lucky enough to be staying at a Villa located just north of Nice and it was relatively easy to drive to the railway station at Eze, a hamlet located between Nice and Monaco.

“The train ride was approximately 15-20 minutes so it is not too difficult to endure if it happens to be crowded on race day.

“The train ticket (return) costs are reasonable, although they have increased on 2006 prices when I last visited. It is advisable to pre-book tickets if possible either online or in person at Nice central station. Automated machines at the unmanned station are unpredictable and unreliable!

“For the ultra-wealthy there is the ability to arrive by helicopter. I did this later in the week after the race when prices were cheaper.

“Once you arrive in Monaco it is simple enough to walk to the circuit from the station and there are always plenty of Police willing to help and signs are plentiful for key locations such as Rascasse, Portier etc.

Watching the action

“I sat opposite the pits in 2006 just after the swimming pool and this is the best place to be located for pit lane action.

“The raised pits are at eye level and easily viewable – probably the best way to see pit stops in the world without being in the pit lane, although it is difficult to see the cars for any length of time as they are only in view for 2 seconds at the most .

“Standing is not recommended as there are very few of these areas available at Monaco, plus the rather warm local weather can make it an ordeal!

“For those wanting some fan ‘atmosphere’, the hill above the circuit is excellent.

“There is a legendary McLaren fan who sits there every year with a megaphone haranguing the crowd and drivers before the start of the race – not for the faint-hearted because a slip from there could prove painful, but you can see half the circuit from that viewing point.

Circuit facilities

“Considering the severe lack of space at Monte Carlo, the authorities do very well to keep order and avoid confusion.

“After the 2006 race we were shepherded back to the railway station by police who held the crowd in a road tunnel outside the entrance to avoid crushing in the underground station.

“Queuing for trains can take up to two hours but at least you are out of the often ferocious sun.

“Thanks to the number of people leaving the track it is virtually impossible to stop for anything to eat or drink on the way back through the streets, although if you are willing to hang back for an hour or two you could very easily make an evening of it.

“Toilet and washing facilities are difficult to come by and limited purely down to lack of space – I only noticed three portaloos during the nine hours I was at the circuit.”

Top tips

“My advice would be to plan ahead for travel; ensure an early arrival at the track and pack plenty of sun protection and be prepared for large crowds almost everywhere!

“Also be advised that roaming the circuit is not practical on race day.”

Have you been to the Monaco Grand Prix? If so, please share your experience with any hints and tips you may have for fans thinking of going for the first time. 

Want to go to the British Grand Prix? Here’s my all-you-need-to-know guide

Despite the fact that over seven million people in the UK watched the championship-deciding Brazilian Grand Prix on television, very few people ever go to a race.

Formula One may be the third most watched sporting event in the world – after the Olympics and football World Cup – but with only one event in UK every year, it’s not the most accessible of sports.

But getting the chance to watch a Formula One car roar past in the flesh is not necessarily as expensive and as difficult as you might imagine.

If going to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone is as far afield as you’re willing to travel, then the options open to you are endless.

The cheapest option – if you just want to experience the thrill of watching a Formula One car driven in anger – is to get to Silverstone on the Friday of the Grand Prix weekend.

A Friday-only General Admission ticket – which, unlike on race day, will give you access to all open grandstands – will set you back £49 (£24 for a child), though this will rise to £65 when the ‘early bird’ offer comes to an end. For this, you will get the chance to watch three hours of Formula One practice, on top of practice and qualifying sessions for the support races, including GP2, GP3 and the Porsche Supercup.

Saturday-only tickets cost £85 (£42.50 for children) however these will not grant you access to grandstands for qualifying.

For this, you will need a three-day weekend grandstand ticket. As I explained in an earlier post on the view from the Silverstone stands, there are many to choose from. The cheapest available at the moment is a weekend seat at Copse corner for £180, however a grandstand ticket gives you roving access to all open grandstands on the Friday and Saturday.

If it’s only the race itself that you’re interested in, a Sunday General Admission ticket costs £145 (£73 for children). And while that may seem a bit pricey, there’s so much more than the Grand Prix itself. The morning will feature three support races; a host of air displays, including the red arrows and a Grand Prix party after the race.

At the moment, however, an extra £7 will get you a covered seat at Copse corner, which seems like an attractive option given the deluge suffered by last year’s race-goers.

The easiest – and cheapest – way to get tickets to the British Grand Prix is via the official Silverstone website.

Getting to Silverstone

In terms of how to get to the Silverstone, there are plenty of options open to you.

If you’re only going on race day, Megabus operates a service from over 50 towns and cities across the UK from as far away Edinburgh, Southampton, Plymouth and Swansea. A return ticket from Cardiff, for example, costs £30, leaving at 6am and departing Silverstone at 4pm, around 90 minutes after the chequered flag.

Alternatively, Silverstone operate a Park and Ride service, just off the M1 and M40. For the first time, this service will operate on the Friday of the Grand Prix weekend. If you’re attending on all three days, it costs £15 per car. A one day pass is priced at £5.

If you wish to arrive by train, the nearest mainline stations are Banbury, Milton Keynes and Northampton. Stagecoach provides a bus service from all three stations throughout the weekend.

For those arriving by car, 2012 was a bit of a nightmare. Silverstone suffered from torrential rain in the build-up to the weekend. Fans were warned not to travel to the circuit for qualifying on the Saturday, in order to let the grass car parks recover in time for race day. Nevertheless, if you wish to travel by car to the 2013 British Grand Prix, a three-day car parking pass will cost you £60. A Sunday-only pass, however, will cost just £45.

Directions are available on the Silverstone website.

Camping

There are a number of campsites within a short walk of the circuit. Silverstone’s official campsite is Silverstone Woodlands, which costs £60 per person (£20 for children) and located on the south side of the circuit near Club corner. However on the three occasions I have been to the British Grand Prix, I have always camped at Whittlebury Park, which is a 5 minute walk from Copse corner. You can see a full list of campsite surrounding the circuit by clicking here.

Accommodation

If, however, camping is not for you, the Silverstone website has a comprehensive section listing local hotels and B&Bs.

Top Tips

If arriving by car, leave very early – especially on race day.

Remember your binoculars! There are many giant screens dotted around the circuit so you can follow the race properly. However, unless you’re lucky, they’re not normally giant enough to be able to read the on-screen graphics properly with the naked eye.

Take a pocket-sized radio and tune into BBC Radio 5 Live or Silverstone Radio of 87.7 FM.

Wear ear plugs! If you have never been to a Grand Prix before, nothing will surprise you more than the deafening noise. Ear plugs are available for purchase at the circuit.

Finally, if you have any money to spare, hire one of the hand-held Fan Vision controllers, aka Kangaroo TV’s. From one of these you will be able to watch the world feed shown on the giant screens and to millions of TV viewers around the world. In addition to that, you will have access to a range of commentaries; team radio, timing screens and a host of on-board options.

If you have been to the British Grand Prix and would like to give advice to other fans thinking of going for the first time, please share your experiences and tips below!

Why the BBC have made the right choice with Suzi Perry

“I’ve missed it. Haven’t you?”

Those were the words with which Jake Humphrey opened his first show as BBC F1 presenter, off the back of the opening credits to the soundtrack of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’ – the iconic theme tune of the BBC’s Grand Prix programme from the 1980s and 90s – making its return after a 12 year hiatus while ITV held the television rights.

And here we are, nearly four years on from Humphrey’s BBC F1 debut in Melbourne 2009 and Suzi Perry – the former MotoGP presenter – is talking about how much she has “really missed” being away from the grid, having been revealed as Humphrey’s successor; the Norfolk-born 34 year-old is moving on to present BT Vision’s new Premier League coverage.

How things change.

Humphrey: If I had my way I'd be in F1 for the long haul

Humphrey: If I had my way I’d be in F1 for the long haul

Only in May this year, Humphrey tweeted: “If I had my way I’d be in F1 for the long haul.”

Less than four months later, it was announced he would be leaving the sport to “fulfil a lifelong dream of presenting the Barclays Premier League.”

Not that it was any great surprise. Only a week earlier, Humphrey announced to his thousands of twitter followers that his wife, Harriet, was expecting their first child in the New Year.

Jake Humphrey announces he is to become a Father

Jake Humphrey announces on twitter that he is to become a Father in the New Year

And as he explained in his last blog post as BBC F1 presenter, he “wants to be there for them both.”

But as Humphrey contemplates being in “Manchester rather than Melbourne and Chelsea rather than China” what do we make of his four-year reign as the BBC’s face of Formula One?

He hasn’t been without his critics. In fact, within hours of the BBC announcing he would be fronting their coverage of the sport in February 2009, F1 fans logged onto internet forums in their droves to express their dissatisfaction at the appointment of the former children’s television presenter.

But boy he has proved them wrong.

When the fresh-faced 30 year-old appeared on our screens at the 2009 Australian Grand Prix, it marked a distinct change in the way Formula One was covered in the UK, which had for many years been anchored by the likes of Jim Rosenthal and Steve Rider.

Eager to make the viewer feel like they were a part of his jet-setting journey following the F1 circus and become the most accessible F1 presenter ever, he certainly achieved his goal in that regard.

Although perhaps initially slightly intimidated by the presence of 13-time Grand Prix winner David Coulthard and former team owner Eddie Jordan alongside him, he rapidly grew into the role.

His blog posts were an instant hit, offering a fascinating insight into what it is like presenting the world’s fastest and most glamorous sport. Whether it be through recording his talk back during post race analysis; revealing what it’s like being producer and presenter or giving fans a guided tour of the BBC’s offices in the TV compound in Budapest, Humphrey truly delivered in giving F1 fans the kind of behind-the-scenes insights they had craved for years.

On screen, the chemistry with David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan was equally as popular.

The bike ride to, wing walk over and campsite BBQ at Silverstone have been amongst the most memorable of stunts and features performed by ‘the three amigos’ over the years.

The F1 forum never failed to entertain and inform and the emotion conveyed in the Brawn garage moments after Jenson Button won the World Championship at the 2009 Brazilian Grand Prix was sensational.

After four years, Humphrey was willing to admit in his last blog post that he has “taken the F1 job as far as I can.”

Some would argue that the three-Top-Gear-lads-style coverage had begun to run its course and was in need of a revamp.

So what can we expect from the BBC’s F1 coverage in 2013 with Suzi Perry hosting the show?

The BBC’s Head of F1, Ben Gallop, said Perry will bring a “real energy and years of experience to one of the biggest jobs in sports broadcasting.” Of that there is no doubt.

For ten years the 42 year-old presented the corporation’s MotoGP coverage with consummate ease and style.

Presenting solo from the grid, Perry held the show singlehandedly – something Humphrey would probably be the first to admit was not a strength of his.

Since they lost the exclusive TV rights at the beginning of 2012, Martin Brundle’s trademark ‘grid walk’ has undoubtedly been the biggest loss to the BBC’s coverage. David Coulthard – who blossomed this year as a commentator – tried his best, but struggled on the grid in the shadow of his former colleague.

With ‘the three amigos’ broken up, however the BBC decide to cover the sport in 2013, it will be different in style and tone to what viewers have become accustomed to.

BBC bosses could do worse than allow Perry to do what she does best: presenting the bulk of the race build-up solo, with an extended grid walk; guiding viewers through the starting line-up, the background stories and permutations, while engaging with drivers and team bosses and throwing to her pundits and roving reporters when appropriate. A new, dynamic, less awkward coverage of the sport may yet emerge from the state broadcaster.

And when the 2013 season comes to a close Brundle’s grid walk may have been all but forgotten, while those who dreaded the break-up of ‘the three amigos’ may find they haven’t been much missed at all.

F1 INSIGHT: A day in the life of an F1 Design Engineer

We are more than a month into the Formula One close season and the team’s designers and aerodynamicists are busy working on next year’s car.

But the design process is not something F1 teams only begin in earnest once the season is over.

Even with the ban on in-season testing – brought in prior to the 2009 season to curb escalating costs – a dedicated team of designers and engineers remain at the factory all year round, trying to find that extra tenth of a second in performance.

So how exactly does an idea for a new front wing go from a designers head to being bolted onto an F1 car at the track? And how long does it take?

In the first of my F1 insight series, McLaren’s Alistair Niven tells all.

He reveals what his role involves on a day-to-day basis; how he got to where he is now; his advice to anyone wanting to become an F1 designer and what he feels is the best car he’s had a role in designing.

How long have you worked for McLaren?

“I have worked for the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes F1 Team for approximately eight years.”

What is your current job title at McLaren Mercedes?

“Aerodynamic Design Engineer.”

What exactly does your role involve doing?

“As Aerodynamic Design Engineers we take the untamed concepts from our Aerodynamicists and convert them into credible engineered components that are ‘fit for purpose’ for either the Race Car or the Wind tunnel Model.

“In more detail, we take rendered aerodynamic surfaces and produce detailed engineering designs for our manufacturing departments or external suppliers; needless to say the whole process up to the material cutting stage is done electronically using CAD/CAM.

“We currently use ‘CATIA V5’ as our preferred CAD option. We tend to work in small teams concentrating on specific areas of the car.

“I spent my first few years at McLaren developing the geometry and aerodynamic concepts of the front suspension and braking system before moving onto the aerodynamic benefits of exhaust systems and rearward surfaces.”

How do these duties fit into the overall development of the McLaren car and the way the team operates as a whole?

“Although many of the mechanical and electrical concepts on the race car change throughout the season the largest amount of change takes place on the aerodynamic surfaces.

“An aerodynamicist can visualize an idea which we, as Aerodynamic Designers, convert into ‘realistic’ designs.

“These creations are transferred electronically to our manufacturers (either in-house or external) for the production process which can take the form of; machining, fabrication, moulding, rapid prototyping etc.

“The completed parts are often shipped straight to the track and assembled to the race car.

“This whole process regularly takes place within one working day. One working day in motorsport means 24 hours! So to summarize: Concept – Design – Manufacture – Transport – Assemble – Race.”

How did you get to where you are now? What qualifications and experience did you obtain prior to arriving in your current position with McLaren?

“I took a bit of an unusual route into Formula 1.

“I served a mechanical engineering apprenticeship after leaving school and then went to Glasgow University and studied for a combined degree in Aeronautical & Mechanical engineering.

“I was then offered a Lecturing post at a college in Barrow-in Furness teaching mechanical engineering to students working on the Trident submarine programme.

“Five years later I moved to Surrey, to take up a Lecturing appointment at Brooklands College, next to the famous Brooklands race track, teaching mechanical and aeronautical engineering.

“We designed and taught the first suite of National and Higher National Diploma’s in Motorsport engineering which is still running to this day.

“After twelve years at Brooklands I moved to Oxford to lecture on the automotive engineering degree course at Oxford Brookes University.

“Several years later I was asked to run a GT team back in Surrey and a year later joined McLaren as an Aerodynamic Design Engineer.”

How much of a F1 fan were you growing up? Did you always want to do what you do now or did you drift into it, almost by accident?

“I have been a motorsport fan for as long as I can remember, but my early passion was football and was lucky enough to play semi-professionally for over twenty years.

“I started racing motorcycles when I was eighteen on a Yamaha TZ350E before moving onto a Suzuki RG500.

“I blamed my lack of money for not winning, but looking back it was probably my lack of ability that was the primary reason!

“The main reason for choosing an Aero/Mechanical degree was that I really wanted to be an astronaut, but with the opportunities in that direction being few and far between I subsequently fell into lecturing.

“Looking back I have no regrets.”

Do you travel to races? How much involvement with the drivers, mechanics and team bosses seen at a Grand Prix do you have?

“As Design Engineers we are not required at race events.

“Originally, when ‘in-season’ testing was allowed, Design Engineers would attend two tests per year.

“The drivers on average come into the McLaren Technology Centre about once a week to either use the simulator or attend marketing events. They will have meetings with their Race Engineers to discuss car developments and up and coming race strategy.

“The Race Engineers will have been briefed by the Lead Aero Designers on aerodynamic improvements.

“Martin Whitmarsh or Jonathan Neale give a detailed debrief to the factory based staff on the Monday after every race.”

In your time at McLaren, what have been the biggest changes you have seen? How have these changes affected the way you and the team operate on a day-to-day basis?

“Without doubt the biggest change has been the speed of production, as mentioned earlier.

“An idea can be in the head of an aerodynamicist at the beginning of the day and less than 24 hours later it’s racing around a track on the other side of the world.

“This puts an enormous amount of pressure onto engineers, machinists, logistics departments and mechanics.

“The extra tension and excitement during this process tends to be the biggest surprise to most new employees from other industries.”

What is the best car you have had a role in designing?

“The obvious one is the 2008 Championship-winning McLaren MP4-23, but the previous years’ car, the MP4-22, was also great.

“This was the car in which Lewis Hamilton started his F1 career and started winning races almost from the outset, before narrowly missing out on the championship in his rookie year.

“But, as many Design Engineers will tell you, the best one will be next years’ car!”

What effect do you think the 2014 engine regulations will have on the racing?

“As the current regulations have been around for some time now, the gap between the front and rear of the grid has narrowed.

“I would imagine these differences will initially increase again with the advent of the new engines and all the complex chassis changes that will have to be incorporated.

“The existing engines are all producing a similar output, but that will change with the new V6 unit and will take some time for the engine suppliers to reach an equilibrium.

“From a spectators point of view I would imagine the noise may be a disappointment compared to V8’s, V10’s & V12’s of the past.”

What advice would you give to young people looking to get into what you do?

“Be very hard working, methodical, punctual and polite.

“Try and get as much hands-on experience as you can, working for nothing at weekends within other race formulae always looks good on a CV.

“Physics, Maths, Technology and English are the preferred A-level options at most good engineering universities.

“Grand Prix teams employ graduates from most forms of engineering including mechanical, aeronautical, electrical, software, product design etc.

“The National Diploma/HND in Motorsport Engineering is another route into F1 – it just depends on how long you wish to study for before you start your career in racing.”

In the next F1 INSIGHT, we’ll be hearing about life on the road as an F1 mechanic.