Archives November 2020

Turkish GP 2020 – Slip, Slide and a rare “complete entertainer” leading to Hamilton’s Super 7

November 18, 2020 / 0 Comments / 217 / MOTORSPORTS

PRE-RACE BUILD-UP:

  • Hamilton could win his 7th world championship title
  • The track resurfacing was completed just 10 days before the event which meant a very slippery track
  • To improve the grip level, rented cars were made to lap around the circuit to lay rubber
  • The possibility of rain could spice up the event
  • Sauber (Alfa Romeo) celebrated its 500th grand prix event
  • Red Bull racing was celebrating its 300th race
  • George Russell was to take engine related penalties for the race

 

FREE PRACTICES:

The lack of grip due to the new surfacing did not help the drives at all as everyone found it really difficult to put their foot on the throttle. The free practice 1 saw times which were slower than the GP2 times set a decade ago on the same track. All the free practice sessions failed to produce any representative lap time and this meant that we were heading into the qualifying with almost nothing to analyze for the rest of the weekend. Max Verstappen headed all the 3 parts of the practice and Red Bull remained the car to be beaten as they were looking the best in the slippery conditions.

 

QUALIFYING:

To compound the grip problems at the Istanbul park, it was wet to start the qualifying and this posed a challenge for the teams and driver. Everyone came out on the wet weather tires and Verstappen was off just a couple of corners into his out-lap to prove how less grip the circuit offered. After some 11 minutes of running, the race control decided it was too wet to drive as there was a heavy chance of cars aqua plaining. The session resumed once the rain stopped but Romain Grosjean found it very difficult and lost his car under braking into Turn 1 and beached it in the gravel which brought out the second red flag of the session. The qualifying resumed and it was visible that the conditions were improving significantly but not so for Nicolas Latifi who lost control and beached his car in the gravel bring out double waved yellows. Kevin Magnussen, Danill Kvyat, George Russell, Romain Grosjean and Nicolas Latifi were eliminated in Q1 with Danill Kvyat spinning coming out of pits.

The second part of Qualifying saw times drop further as the conditions improved and Alfa Romeo’s of Kimi Raikkonen and Giovinazzi found it suiting their car very much as they both put in competitive lap times enough to get them into Q3. Both the McLarens and Ferraris failed to make the cut into Q3 with Pierre Gasly being the other driver to be eliminated by posting the slowest time of the session.

The Q3 started with everyone barring Sergio Perez coming out on full wet tires. Perez though opted for the green walled Intermediate tires and went fastest of all in the first round of laps. This prompted all the other teams to pit for intermediates as the tires required time to get to the temperature and give their best performance. Max Verstappen aborted his what could be the fastest lap time to pit for Intermediates. The Intermediate tires seemed to be the best for the conditions and Lance Stroll came out to put in a brilliant effort to take the pole position with Max Verstappen still on a good lap. Sergio Perez who had led the session for the major part, could not put together a decent lap and did not improve. Max Verstappen though did improve but it was only good enough for P2. Lance Stroll, therefore, became only the 3rd Canadian to take pole position and the 5th youngest to do so. The difficult conditions did not disappoint as it gave us a unique starting grid with both the Racing Points starting in top 3. Alex Albon qualified P4. It was a good day for Renault as they qualified 5th and 7th with Ricciardo and Ocon respectively. The two Mercedes could only qualify 6th and 9th with Hamilton leading Bottas. Kimi Raikkonen and Giovinazzi rounded off the top 10 with 8th and 10th positions, respectively.

 

RACE

With rain coming down and the slippery nature of the track, it was going to be a race to watch out for. And there was drama even before the race started as Giovinazzi and Russell crashed on their way to the grid. The rain and the new surface meant that the even numbered side of the grid was much more a difficult place to start from and Max Verstappen found it so as he was crawling at the start of the race. The two Racing Points made good getaways to run 1-2 with Lance Stroll heading Perez. Behind though there were slips and spins, with Ocon being tagged by Ricciardo at Turn 1 into a spin and Valterri Bottas could do nothing but spin his Mercedes to avoid Ocon. Sebastian Vettel though made an incredible getaway and ran as high as P3 by Lap 1. Hamilton made a superb start to take P3 at the start but lost in under braking to given away his position to Vettel, Verstappen and Albon. Bottas though again collided with the Renault of Estaben Ocon, resulting in a spin for the Renault driver. The Red Bulls looked very comfortable and Max Verstappen was soon chasing the Racing Points who had comfortably got into the lead after the first few laps. On Lap 18, Max Verstappen got behind Perez and began pounding behind his gearbox but the spray coming out might have distracted Max and that resulted in a spin. Max dropped from P3 to P6 and pitted soon to change his flat spotted Intermediates. Stroll led for 34 laps of the race but then pitted for another set of Intermediates, but this was the show over for Stroll sadly as he never could switch on those set of tires and struggled with graining.

On Lap 37, Lewis Hamilton who has pitted only once closed the gap to Sergio Perez and took the lead with the help of DRS. Once he took the lead, there was no looking back as Lewis Hamilton probably drove one of his best races and was at his very best. Lewis Hamilton went on to win the race which made him the World Champion for 2020 and therefore, he equaled Michael Schumacher’s record of 7 world championship titles, the most for any Formula 1 driver. There was a 3-way scrap for the second position though as Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel had closed onto the gearbox of Sergio Perez. Charles Leclerc locked his brakes up going into the penultimate chicane which gave Sergio Perez to reclaim the second position and allowed Vettel to pass Leclerc. Leclerc finished P4 and thus capped off Ferrari’s strongest race of 2020. Carlos Sainz took a brilliant 5th place with the two Red Bulls of Max and Albon finishing 6th and 7th respectively. Norris, Stroll and Ricciardo rounded off the top 10. Valterri Bottas had a weekend to forget as he struggled to keep the car on track. He spun multiple times during the race and finished a lowly 14th.

By winning the Turkish GP, Lewis Hamilton became the 7-time Formula 1 World Champion. Sebastian Vettel was chosen as the Driver of the Day. Though the race had many ups and downs, it must be said that this was one of the best races of the season. A Lewis Hamilton masterpiece with many close battles going on through out the race made it one of the best in recent times.

We hope for many more races of this kind where we as Formula 1 fans will be entertained to the highest possible level.

Audi A6 : The Trump Card from Ingolstadt

November 8, 2020 / 0 Comments / 418 / ROAD TEST REVIEWS

Pros:

+A supreme all-rounder that strikes a good balance of style, luxury and performance churning out 243 bhp and 370 Nm
+ Interiors feel very plush. Top-notch craftsmanship. Dual screens for MMI and climate control feels lifted off from Interstellar
+ At a starting price of 54.5 lakhs (ex-India), this is your cheapest entry ticket to the World of the premium luxury segment
+ Refinement levels are stupendous, the engine feels so silent that you could hear your clock ticking, okay that was ambitious
+ One of those rare Audis in which the steering feels pretty direct at good triple-digit speeds (It’s no way heavy but it does stiffen up for that added confidence)
+ Feature loaded to a good extent! Lane change assist, individual rear climate control, virtual cockpit, park assist, sunroof etc
+ The carnivorous 530L boot ensures your airport transfers are never disappointing
+ 16-speaker 705W Bang & Olufsen will remind you of your pre-covid PVR days. The bass, the vocals are excellent!
+ Fantastic braking at good triple-digit speeds
+ Attractive purchase schemes and maintenance packages make it a mouth-watering proposition

Cons:

– The huge transmission tunnel on the rear is a turn-off and makes the A6 best suited for 4 adults and a kid
– Although the demand for Diesel is tapering, enthusiasts will miss its additional grunt bundled with better economy
– Omission of Adaptive suspension, V6 and Quattro feels like a slight compromise, more so when you are paying 78 big ones for the top of the line technology trim as a resident of tax-savvy Bengaluru
– While the 7-speed dual-clutch transmissions are generally known to do a good job, a bit of occasional lag was evident in the higher gears
– Interiors have improved at the expense of ergonomics. Wireless charging pod is housed inside the rear armrest and gets tricky to access your phone while on the move
– While the low centre of gravity is a good ingredient for corners, you would have to be careful with uninvited speed-breakers
Audi, DKW, Horch, Wanderer – These are the names of the 4 companies that came together in 1932 to form a union in the form of Auto Union Deutschland Ingolstadt, AUDI, in short. 

The Indian automotive industry is extremely volatile. The complex tax structures, the transition to BS6 emissions norms etc has forced some manufacturers to make some of the historic decisions. According to media reports, 90% of Audi’s sold in 2015 were Diesel, A couple of years later the gap narrowed with 70% of them being Diesel. But fast forward to 2020, in what seems to be surprised every single Audi sold today is a petrol-only Avatar.

There are multiple reasons behind this decision, the dieselgate, the narrowing price gap of petrol & diesel and of course the transition to BS6

Will the 5th generation of Audi A6 petrol be a trump card for the German carmaker to revive or is it a victim of impulsive decision?

Exterior

The Audi A6 follows the mantra of clean and slated design language of the German carmaker. There is a large beautiful grille that occupies half the real estate. The LED headlamps offer a great throw at night. The high beams, however, could have done slightly better justice to the car of this price bracket. The LED fog lamps feel very stylish and you get the front parking sensors too with super cool headlamp washers. 

Moving to the side of the Audi A6, you instantly realise that it’s not the long-wheelbase version. More, so if you are familiar with the E class LWB. The 18” alloys look stunning and go well with the design language of the A6. There is a neat touch of chrome around the silhouette. The car does look imposing and we feel this is the best angle to view the car. 

Going back to the rear and you realise that Audi has put in some serious thought in crafting it close to timeless perfection. The LED tail lamps and the thin chrome strip running across the backyard take the elegance to a new level. The boot space reads 530 litres on paper and is actually deep and wide enough to be a good long-distance companion. Thankfully, the space saver is tucked inside.

Interior

I wouldn’t shy away from the fact that if I had to pick one brand from the German-trio as my retirement home, it would certainly be the Lord of the rings.  Be it the simplistic cabin of the Audi Q3 back then or the uber-luxurious A6 which takes the business class experience a notch above. The twin-screen setup which is the architect of the victory in this Yacht on wheels will absolutely not go unnoticed. The primary 10-inch touchscreen is outsourced with the job to control various functionalities of the car like the multitude of driving modes ranging from Economy, comfort, sport and individual.  The music system controls, navigation etc are controlled with the same dominating screen. The lower glass housing does everything to ensure the mercury levels in the opulent cabin is aligned to the individual passengers’ needs. The multiple layers of the dash, and the use of different materials, make it looks distinctive and fresh. I just love the gloss black panel above the glovebox and the way it blends into the large central touchscreen unit. 

The steering feels great to hold and houses control for most of your on-the-move requirements. The paddle-shifters try very hard to remind you that the A6 too could be a potent driver’s choice as much as it is for the driven. To justify the price tag the A6 splurges you with the rarest of the customization options including the instrument cluster options. 

The 16 speakers 700 watt Bang and Olufsen music system deserves a special mention and undoubtedly it’s excellent at what it does. The drive selector seems very modernistic unlike the traditional sticks of older Audis. The space below the armrest doubles up as a wireless charging pod but I felt it to be tad inconvenient and the larger problem being there was no space to store some basic accessories like wallet and I had no option but to use the same real-estate under the arm-rest for it. 

The Audi A6 is one good looking sedan. And in this generation, it will make people notice it. Inside the cabin, it offers a premium experience and will make onlookers envy the high-tech setup. It is focused towards the driver with all three screens facing him/her. What it lacks, however, is any sort of entertainment for the rear or front passenger. And while the infotainment system performs all of its duties flawlessly, and looks cool while doing it, it lacks depth to deliver a truly geeky experience.

There is a wooden finished trim running across the plush cabin with the rings embedded in it. Small touches like the beautiful craftsmanship of the wooden lid above the cup holders for your espresso reminds you of your return on investment of those 78 big ones. There are an electronic parking brake and auto start/stop button which is used to shut the engine off at traffic signals. As expected in a car of this price bracket, you get up to 2 settings for the memory seats which increase the convenience. There is a sunroof that does a good job to fulfil your daily dose of vitamin D. 

Drive

Audi gets the no-frills petrol edition which is essentially a Turbocharged Fuel Stratified injection commonly abbreviated as TFSI. While the engine does the job that you would expect from a 4 pot churning out 245 horses, enthusiasts will crave for 2 additional cylinders which were available in the earlier A6. If numbers isn’t all, this is probably the most refined petrol engine I have driven this year. The motor barely makes a sound and there is no vibration from the engine once it gets pumping. Get on the gas and it’s quick to pick up speed. The A6 takes just 4.4 seconds to get from 20 till 80kmph. Power is available in the rev band and it never makes you work for it. But while it is effortless, it isn’t exciting. Even a kickdown will be rather calm and won’t push you back in the seat. The front wheel drive layout does mean you have to deal with torque steer. The engine sounds sweet but the cabin insulation gets the better of it.

The motor is also surprisingly efficient for the amount of power it makes, returning 9 kmpl in the city and a surprising 14 kmpl on the highway part of our test. Part of this is down to the mild-hybrid setup in the A6 that consists of a starter motor and additional battery that powers the start-stop system and also maintain any cruising speed below 160kmph for up to 40 seconds with the engine switched off.

Tap the throttle and the car literally sprints and pushes you back around 2000 rpm. One thing that you instantly notice is the exceptional refinement levels. The engine feels way more powerful than it actually is. The steering is light in the city and lets you amble around town and even park in a tight spot with ease. However, it is quite lacklustre compared to its oldest rival, the 530d. 

Ride

The ride quality on broken roads at early double-digit speeds is compliant. But if you plan to get ambitious with the throttle input when the road isn’t prepared for it, the A6 will give you a good reason to complain. Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely no way, the bumpiness will traverse through the 18 inches of rubbers sourced by Michelin to the plush rear seat. With the low centre of gravity is a good recipe for high-speed cornering, you have another reason to drive the car at crawling speeds on speed breakers else, you might end up scraping one of those large, uninvited speed breakers.

The suspension is beautifully balanced to take on everything from speed breakers to potholes. The fat rubber on the tall wheels make a hell of a combination to keep you comfortable and worry-free. And even though there is no air suspension on offer, the setup is extremely quiet and won’t leave you complaining. It’s only over broken patches of roads when it gets unsettled a bit. Everything else, the A6 can eat for breakfast

Handling

While the Audi A6 wasn’t really known as a luxury car that you could take it to the racetrack on a weekend and take it to the office the next day, but when you pay 78 big ones there isn’t harm in expecting a bang for your every single buck. To arrive at a conclusion, we drove it through the umpteen sharp turns of National Highway 17 that leads us to the outskirts of the beautiful small town, Hassan.

It’s agile around corners too and keeps body roll nicely controlled. The only fly in the ointment is the missing quattro system — with this much power and torque going to the front wheels you do tend to experience both understeer and torque steer if you start to get heavy footed with the throttle around a set of corners. Like most Audis, however, the steering feel is too light, even in Sport, and though it’s great while driving in the city, around bends it saps some of the joy out of the driving experience.

Honestly, the conclusion was fairly simple. The Audi A6 felt calm and composed at triple-digit speeds, there were no evident signs of nervousness, no matter what. Having said that, we did feel that the 2 extra cylinders are the missing ingredient that is falling short in the recipe to make it one of the strong contenders in the pit lane of Buddh international circuit. If you are a Quattro fan, you would be left with dismay as the A6 missed out on this Audi’s breakthrough technology. 

Safety

In terms of safety, the A6 has you covered with 8 airbags, disc brakes on all four corners, ABS, EBD, ESC, and traction control. There are even an active lane departure warning system and a hands-free parking assistant.

Shutterdrives Says

It’s important for every car to have a USP to sell well in India unless you’re a Maruti Suzuki. While the BMW 530d is a ballistic missile, the E class LWB is a house on wheels but the Audi A6 fits in as a jack of all trades and master of none. If there’s something that’s really in the favor of A6 it’s the rather attractive price tag compared to its rivals.

Coming back to where we started off with, the A6 certainly does not really seem to be a victim of an impulsive decision of the petrol-only strategy from the German carmaker and rather feels like the trump card Audi has been long-wanting, especially with the A6 bearing the additional responsibility of being the cheapest Audi you could buy in India minus the recently Q2 which we expect to get our hands on, sometime soon. 

 If we get a chance to be optimistic, we really wish the Audi A6 gets 2 additional cylinders or the power of Quattro to make it an even better contender in the luxury shopping space of one of the most dynamic auto markets in the World. 

Mercedes clinch 7th consecutive constructor’s title at IMOLA

November 6, 2020 / 0 Comments / 309 / MOTORSPORTS

PRE-RACE BUILDUP:

  • George Russell gets confirmed at Williams after rumors of Sergio Perez replacing him for 2021
  • Haas has decided to let go off both its current drivers, Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean for 2021
  • Pierre Gasly is confirmed to stay with Alpha Tauri for 2021
  • Tributes pour in for Brazilian Ayrton Senna and Austrian Ronald Ratzenberger who tragically lost their lives in the horrific Imola race weekend of 1994
  • Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher are the speculated line-up for Haas F1 in 2021
  • Pierre Gasly running a Ayrton Senna inspired helmet for the Imola Weekend
  • Formula 1 testing its 2 day weekend with only one practice session of 90 minutes followed by Qualifying on Saturday and the main race on Sunday

 

QUALIFYING:

Imola was expected to be tough with just 90 minutes of practice. The strict track limits though came out of syllabus to add to the problems of drivers. Imola is firstly a narrower track compared to the rest and with cars evolving over years in terms of size, it was bound to be difficult to find a way through to adhere to the track limits and more importantly overtake during the race which made the qualifying very important.

The first part of qualifying again saw the SATURDAY MAN George Russell put in a splendid lap to get out of Q1. He put in the 14th quickest laptime. Kimi Raikkonen was left furious with his best lap time being deleted due to track limit violations and therefore ended a lowly 18th. Both Haas F1 cars of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen, who went wide in the last corner and lost an opportunity to improve his time were eliminated after posting the 16th and 17th fastest times of the session. Nicolas Latifi was 19th for Williams and Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi finished 20th.

The second part of qualifying started with the drama of Max Verstappen reporting a power issue with his car. A proper shoutout to the incredible work by Red Bull mechanics though as they could change the spark plug in under 5 minutes and sent Verstappen out on mediums as well to make it into Q3 and he obliged. The session saw both the Racing point car miss out of making it to Q3 which Sergio Perez qualifying 11th, which was just 0.01 seconds of the 10th place. Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel had their lap times deleted as well and ended up 14th and 15th respectively. Renault’s Estaben Ocon and Williams’s Russel qualified 12th and 13th.

The final part of qualifying was a shoutout between the Mercedes cars for pole. Lewis Hamilton and Valterri Bottas swapped positions 3 times but it was Valterri Bottas who ended up beating his teammate by 0.097 seconds to claim pole position. Pierre Gasly, F1’s newest race winner qualified a brilliant 4th. Ricciardo qualified 5th for Renault and the Redbulls of Max Verstappen and Alex Albon ended up 3rd and 6th quickest. Charles Leclerc and Daniil Kvyat qualified 7th and 8th respectively with the two McLarens of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz rounding off the top 10.

 

RACE

Pierre Gasly who qualified a brilliant 4th has issues even before the race started. He reported a loss of power on his installation lap but went on to start the race which a repaired vehicle only for his race to last 9 laps as he was asked to retire the car because of terminal damage. At the start, Verstappen got ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Ricciardo made a good start to claim 4th from Gasly. At the back though, the fast-starting Lance Stroll made contact with Esteban Ocon and broke the left endplate of his front wing. He pitted for a new front wing and never could put up a fight for points, thus ending his dismal performance over the last 5 races. Further back, Kevin Magnussen was punted into a spin by Sebastian Vettel which dropped him to 19th place by the end of Lap 1. Bottas and Verstappen pitted for hard tires by lap 20 whereas Hamilton continued on his mediums. Bottas ran over debris from Sebastian Vettel’s car which caused him to lose downforce and was struggling in the corners. Sergio Perez meanwhile extended his stint on the medium tires and ran as high as 4th. Esteban Ocon reported a problem with this clutch on Lap 29 and the resultant Virtual Safety Car aligned the stars in Lewis Hamilton’s favor further and the pitstop under a VSC cost 10 seconds less than the normal pitstop and he ended up coming out comfortably ahead of Bottas. Bottas struggled to keep up the pace and made a mistake going into the penultimate corner thus giving Max Verstappen the chance to easily overtake him for 2nd position. Though the happiness was short-lived for Max as he would eventually retire from the race after a dramatic right rear tire blowout on Lap 51. The Safety car to recover Max’s car brought the cars bunch together with everyone opting to pit for softs apart from Ricciardo, Leclerc, and Albon who stayed on hards giving importance to track position more than the faster tires. George Russell who was having a great race in P10 steered under the safety car on accelerating for tire warm-up and ended up in the wall thus smashing the hopes of his first-ever point in Formula 1. On the restart, Kvyat made a brilliant move to overtake both Perez and Albon into Turn 1. Perez on softs made a brilliant move through the outside on Albon on the very next corner, but that pressure took into Albon and he spun on his exit from the corner. Albon thus ended up plumb last, yet again damaging his chances to secure his Red Bull seat for 2021.

Lewis Hamilton went on to win his 93rd race and Valterri Bottas came home second, which meant that the constructor’s championship has been won by Mercedes in 2020. This was a Formula 1 record as Mercedes became the first ever team to win the championship for 7 straight years. Daniel Ricciardo secured his 2nd podium of the season by finishing third and ended the brilliant with this trademark SHOEY celebration. Hamilton too joined in to do a SHOEY post-race on the podium. Kvyat finished a strong fourth with Leclerc and Perez rounding off the top 6. The two McLarens and the two Alfa Romeo cars completed the Top 10.

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