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August 19, 2016 @ 4:49 am

2016 Mid-season report

It's the mid-season break and with the teams on summer holiday that's left the Pitpass trio of Chris Balfe, Max Noble and Mat Coch to dissect the first half of the year.

In a show that's best described as a marathon and not a sprint, the guys look at each and every team, evaluating their performances and prospects in 2016. There's also discussion on the plight ahead of Nico Rosberg, and just how the German let a seemingly insurmountable points advantage slip through his fingers.

Speaking of slipping backwards, Ferrari too has shown worrying signs to Balfe, who suggests the once mighty Italian team is at risk of another dark age. But such is the way with Formula One, as one team's star rises another falls, and as those in red begin spending more time looking over their shoulders Christian Horner and his Red Bull squad must be rubbing their hands together though.

Enter Max Noble, who has a cunning conspiracy theory on the current engine situation at Milton Keynes. With its Renault engines – sorry, Tag Heuer engines – working a treat the transformation in the team has been evident in the season so far. There are worrying signs though, and not of another era of Red Bull domination but in its general attitude and swagger according to both Balfe and Coch.

The pros and cons of Sauber's new owners is debated as is the fate of Rio Haryanto, Daniil Kvyat and Jolyon Palmer. Indeed the Coch asks his fellow presenters to put themselves in the hot seat at Renault and decide just what it does on the driver front for 2017.

Williams, Force India, McLaren and Haas also get discussed as the sport enters its final week of summer holidays, as the Pitpass team brings you bang up to date with everything that we can expect to see in the nine races ahead, with the benefit of the hindsight gleaned from the opening 12 races of the year.

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July 15, 2016 @ 10:11 am

2016 British GP

Is Lewis Hamilton good or bad for Formula One? That's the question the Pitpass team grapples with in the British Grand Prix podcast following his stunning win in Silverstone.

There are positives and negatives in the sport's reigning world champion, with Chris Balfe, Max Noble and Mat Coch looking at where he adds value and where there's room for improvement. The consensus is that it's not Lewis who needs to pull up his socks but Mercedes, which has created a runaway train following its denial of comments made by Niki Lauda.

Nico Rosberg doesn't escape without feeling the wrath of the team either, with his Austrian Grand Prix misdemeanor leaving all scratching their heads. In theory the Pitpass trio like the aggression and intent from the German, though if it were an Olympic diving even would have given him particularly low scores for execution.

They reason however that it's a glimpse into the mentality of the world championship leader, with his performance at Silverstone – and more the point the fact he was second fiddle to Hamilton all weekend – is cause for concern.

Mercedes dominates the episode with plenty being said on the radio, unlike in modern F1, and a debate on just where to draw the line. Noble suggests regulation size chalk boards and strict rules over the colour of the chalk itself be used as the sole means of contact mid-race.

Away from Mercedes, Ferrari has its decision to offer Kimi Raikkonen another contract analysed. It's a statement of ambition Coch, Balfe and Noble agree, but is that ambition ambitious enough for the Scuderia?

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June 23, 2016 @ 8:11 am

European Grand Prix 2016

Hot on the heels of the European Grand Prix, the Pitpass team have headed to the studio for the latest episode of the show in which they discuss carpets, SLR cameras, cats and toe-tapping national anthems.

It was the flying carpets that got editor Chris Balfe's mind racing ahead of the start of the race around the streets of Baku, dredging up memories of Morocco. Max Noble meanwhile was salivating at the thought of telling his cat all about the track as he commentates his way around the circuit on the latest Formula 1 video game.

Yes, carpets and cats, all the ingredients are there for a hugely entertaining podcast, or at very least a couple of poor choices in floor coverings.

Still, when they were serious the team lamented the new circuit, which they agreed lacked soul, atmosphere and, as Balfe pointed out, spectators. It also lacked any sort of reference to show the speed of the cars down the long front straight, meaning the bragging rights of it being the fastest street circuit of the world were more or less meaningless. Plus it kind of ruins the rest of the lap the team agrees, since any gains on the fiddly bits are lost in the slipstream down towards turn one.

Those fiddly bits caught out almost everyone, and Lewis Hamilton's qualifying misdemeanor didn't go without mention. It was an off weekend for the world champion, with Mat Coch suggesting he should spend a little more time reading the instruction manual.

But if Hamilton's performance was a surprise Red Bull's wasn't as the Renault, or is that TAG Heuer, engine puffed and wheezed its way down the straight. The team might blame the Pirelli tyres but nothing beats horsepower down a drag strip reckons Noble.

There's discussion about radio rules, compliments for Sergio Perez and eyebrows raised over Williams' performance – not to mention that of Toro Rosso. Whichever Nico it was in the Mercedes in Canada and Monaco looks to have jumped into the Force India since Hulkenberg had a dismal weekend when Rosberg showed the form with which he started the season once more. It raises questions on both fronts, with no easy answers on either.

There's a host of other topics covered too such as Noble being accused of animal cruelty, Sergio Marchionne's emergency sweater surgery and Balfe's displeasure at having the end of Le Mans ruined by some overzealous television commentary.

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June 16, 2016 @ 6:03 am

Canada 2016

Just where was Nico Rosberg at the Canadian Grand Prix? That’s the question being asked by the Pitpass team as they once again gather to run their critical eye over Formula One.

Following an intriguing Monaco Grand Prix and a week in which Chris Balfe had been performing daily rain dances in an attempt to spice up the action in Canada, the weekend proved comparatively reserved. There were casualties and the race wasn’t bad, and unusually cold, but it wasn’t the blockbuster the Giles Villeneuve circuit can sometimes deliver.

Lewis Hamilton’s performance, particularly at the first corner, set chins wagging and raised the question of driving standards; not because the reigning world champion had done anything wrong but because Formula One seems to be the outlier in terms of world motorsport according to Mat Coch.

Sebastian Vettel may not have stolen victory following his lightning start but he did steal the show post-race according to Balfe after hijacking Lewis Hamilton’s television interview to share his love of ornithology. It was unscripted, off the cuff and showed the personalities of both Vettel and Hamilton and that, according to Balfe, is where the sport could win so many new fans.

There were notable mentions for Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz while a quiet pondering over Force India’s weekend, not to mention a chink of the glass for McLaren and Fernando Alonso.

In that glass is of course the sport’s official frosty elixir, as announced over the Canadian Grand Prix.

With another race this weekend the team also shares its thoughts on the forthcoming European Grand Prix, and why getting your hair cut this weekend might be a bad idea.

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June 7, 2016 @ 2:54 pm

Monaco 2016

Having finally dried out after a soggy Monaco Grand Prix weekend, the Pitpass team have found their way into the studio to discuss everything that happened around the streets of the Principality.

Chris Balfe is back on the grid alongside Mat Coch and Max Noble as they sink their teeth into the meaty issue that is Red Bull and its inability to perform a pit stop. The former world champion team put in an amateur performance in Monaco which cost its de facto lead driver a likely win – and probably his loyalty to the squad too. For that reason and others Balfe suggests heads should roll at the Milton Keynes squad

Speaking of heads, while they roll away from the Red Bull factory there's some serious work that needs to be done inside Max Verstappen's. Following a breakthrough win in Barcelona both Balfe and Noble share concerns that he's perhaps starting to get a little too big for his britches. It might have been the perfect way to start his career at the time, but the duo are left questioning whether in reality it was the worst possible thing that could happen as it hasn't given the youngster time to adjust and acclimatise to his surroundings. His attitude across the Monaco weekend didn't do the teenager any favours.

Almost missed under the steaming pile left in Red Bull's pit box was Lewis Hamilton's performance, the Mercedes driver putting in a solid day's work to make the most of his performance. It wasn't lost on the Pitpass team who all agree that while he wasn't the fastest car out there he did all he needed to do to remain in contention, as the very best always do.

In many respects the same can be said for Sergio Perez who seemed to out drive the Force India to nab third place from under Ferrari's nose. More than that the Mexican racer is beginning to embarrass Nico Hulkenberg, leaving Noble to question whether Perez is getting better or Hulkenberg is getting worse.

Thankfully there will be plenty of opportunity for Noble to assess that in the coming weeks as the championship heads off on an eight week tour that takes in six different countries. It's an important phase of the championship, one which the team hopes Nico Rosberg bothers to turn up for.

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May 20, 2016 @ 7:50 am

Spain 2016

After yet another thrilling grand prix, the third in a row if you believe Mat Coch, the Pitpass crew is back to make sense of it all.

Max Noble joins Coch in the studio as Chris Balfe takes a week off, the duo sharing their thoughts and opinions on everything from the mud slinging happening at Ferrari to the warm fuzzy feeling Noble gets while reading headlines about Max Verstappen.

The Spanish Grand Prix was a sensation for the young Dutchman, and while he receives his fair share of praise the attentions of both Noble and Coch were elsewhere. According to Noble the Barcelona encounter was proof that the old Kimi Raikkonen had returned, while the Finn's performance would have left Coch having a stern talking to the man who finished second best.

Proving he'd be a harsh task master, Coch then sets his sights on Ricciardo, for the second time in as many shows, suggesting the Australian's time at Red Bull has come to an end. The arrival and immediate success of Verstappen is Ricciardo's death knell, he reasons and while understanding his perspective, Noble plants himself firmly on the fence.

And it's from that vantage point he draws his conclusions over the first lap incident between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. But while he isn't willing to apportion blame, Noble does admit he'd be giving both drivers a stern talking to, going so far as to threaten them both with the sack if they don't lift their games. Predictably, Coch has a different view and lays the blame entirely on one of the two Mercedes men in a passionate rant that ultimately ends up with him questioning the driving standards in Formula One.

There's a half-baked conspiracy theory and some words of encouragement for Romain Grosjean before Coch and Noble just about come to blows over their opinion of the Monaco Grand Prix.
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May 3, 2016 @ 8:23 pm

Russia 2016

Poor Daniil Kvyat is copping it from all sides this week. Not only do the rumours swirl that he's been ousted from his seat at Red Bull but the Pitpass team is showing no mercy either.

Chris Balfe, Max Noble and a terminally ill sounding Mat Coch have once again entered the Pitpass studio to dissect the race, with Balfe and Noble adding their voices to the chorus of criticism young Kvyat has faced since the Russian Grand Prix. Surprisingly it's Coch who leaps to his defense, a point not lost by Kvyat who seemed determined to interrupt the show by continually texting Balfe.

But if the team couldn't unanimously agree on just how much at fault Kvyat was, they could at least agree that it was, as Russian Grands Prix go, a pretty good one. It wasn't China good, but it was certainly not Abu Dhabi bad, which on balance means it was probably above average.

That doesn't all owe to the racing either as the weekend's events provided plenty of ammunition for the team away from the Vettel's offensive on Russia's western front. Lewis Hamilton had chins wagging, and not for the right reasons with the reigning world champion showing all the signs of having been up well past his bed time and having the strops for not getting ice-cream because he didn't eat all his vegetables. Yes, the team agrees his attitude over the weekend was childish, and they're not shy in airing that view.

Whatever medicine Coch is on has clearly left him in feisty mood, the Australian taking objection to everything that anyone was saying. He's anti-team radio, anti-canopy, anti-Hamilton and, well, anti-anti. If further evidence was needed his suggestion that selling Daniel Ricciardo for a buck and dropping Max Verstappen alongside Daniil Kvyat at Red Bull is the way forward says everything you need to know.

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April 22, 2016 @ 1:45 pm

China 2016

The Chinese Grand Prix proved almost too exciting for the Pitpass team as they gather once again in the studio to dissect the race. Chris Balfe, Max Noble and Mat Coch can't hide their after what they suggest was easily the best race of the season.

A mixed up race caused by a combination of safety cars, grid penalties and incidents give the trio plenty of fodder. Between them they quickly lay the blame for Sebastian Vettel's first corner collision firmly at the German's feet, not that they really minded since the post-race banter with Daniil Kvyat and the Ferrari driver's recovery energised the race.

If the trio was happy with Vettel's outburst and performance they were also impressed by his countryman, Nico Rosberg. Three wins in a row to start the season gets the guys saying positive things, and when you remember the three wins at the end of 2015 suggest there's a new Nico at Mercedes.

For a Formula One podcast there is a lot of talk about football, but it as a point aside from Balfe's support of Tottenham. There are parallels between F1 and the English Premier League, Coch suggests, though his claim that Leeds United is a powerhouse is optimistic.

With a surprising focus on the race weekend itself the Chinese marshals get a mention, as does the oversize hairdryer with which they tried to (pointlessly in Coch's opinion) dry the track. Still, it made for a varied tyre strategy come the race, which made Noble especially happy.

There weren't so kind words for Valtteri Bottas though. The flying Finn, once rated as a future world champion, has lost his spark according to Balfe, while Coch puts Noble on the spot and asks if he'd hire Bottas if he was at the helm at Williams. It makes for an awkward silence.

Sauber's continuing plight gets the team talking about Alfa Romeo and just what it would mean to have the Italian name back on the grid. Balfe though questions the logic of such a connection, and whether Sauber would be the best target, not to mention the importance of getting the branding right.

That's a trap others have fallen into, including the team which now calls itself Renault. Having bought out the Enstone squad at the end of 2015 its woes at the back end of the grid are self-inflicted says Balfe in a compelling argument.

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April 7, 2016 @ 2:47 am

Bahrain 2016

The Pitpass crew returns to discuss the Bahrain Grand Prix, and for once they actually just about manage it.

Chris Balfe, Max Noble and Mat Coch return and touch on topics such as Lewis' dress sense and where Max keeps his money.

The nearly 50-minute show gets into every nook and cranny of the sport, analysing Ferrari's seemingly fast but fragile 2016 contender, just who was at fault in the Valtteri Bottas versus Lewis Hamilton clash and the future of Carlos Sainz.

An impressive show from Stoffel Vandoorne gets the team excited while there are raised eyebrows and confused banter over Fernando Alonso, Ron Dennis and the person booking Vandoorne's flight from Japan.

There remains an undercurrent of suspicion too as the trio suggest that the way the sport is being dragged through the mud is no accident, and while it doesn't point fingers there's a certain amount of gesticulating in one general direction.

Williams' bad race didn't escape their ire while there are concerns for Sauber - a team which seems a shadow of its former self.
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March 23, 2016 @ 2:00 am

Australia 2016

Fresh off the back of the opening round of the 2016 Formula One championship, the Pitpass trio of Chris Balfe, Mat Coch and Max Noble are back in the studio.

It was a weekend which provided the team with plenty to talk about, from the weather to tyre rules, qualifying to safety structures.

One of the key talking points was the all-new qualifying format, which was universally panned not only by the Pitpass crew but those within the Formula One paddock. The drama, the anticipation and the hero lap were all missing, Balfe, Noble and Coch agree. Instead it's replaced with a confusing system that lends itself to over-exciting commentators yelling their way through the broadcast before realising just how silly it all is.

Predictably, Fernando Alonso's crash was discussed at length with both positive and negative outcomes as a result. While pleased to see the Spaniard walk away there were concerns over how easily the crash happened, and how fortunate it was not to have been bigger. That naturally sees the conversation turn to the revised head protection the sport is looking to introduce as the trio analyse whether a halo-style devise would have helped or hindered Alonso.

There are positive words for Haas and Ferrari, and a collective sigh of relief that Mercedes hasn't run away with it - yet - as was feared it might. There's even a special mention for Sebastian Vettel's sense of humour following the banter with former team-mate Mark Webber on the podium post-race.
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