Is Formula one forever flawed?; Enticed by Vauxhall's new Viva; Autocar Next Generation Award to find new talent
Steve Cropley Autocar
22 June 2015

MONDAY - How will the powers that be improve Formula 1? They won’t, is the short answer.

The single most depressing moment in the BBC’s coverage of the recent Canadian GP was the exchange between commentator Eddie Jordan and Red Bull boss Christian Horner when the latter gave notice that new regs aimed at curing some of today’s ills won’t land until 2017.

Were it not the kind of gaffe he’s so adept at sidestepping, Horner might as well have promised that today’s patchwork of imbalances and flaws would be maintained right through this season and next, which is a dire prospect.

Years ago I knew a successful F1 engine designer, long since departed for greener pastures, who went to sleep every night imagining himself as a fuel-air molecule flowing through the latest engine, as a way of devising improvements.

It strikes me that the same kind of boundary-free thinking is needed right across F1 – but the only bloke with attractive ideas is former FIA president Max Mosley, who departed the scene five years ago and isn’t coming back. His successor, Jean Todt, doesn’t even see a problem.

TUESDAY - I’ve been itching to get my hands on the new Vauxhall Viva, latest of the appealing crop of sub-B-segment triples populating our market. The original 1963 Viva HA had steering to die for, even if it was as raucous and gutless as all small cars back then.

Drove the latest £7995 Viva SE 1.0 home last night and found it comfortable, refined and pleasingly quiet over suburban bumps. Add air-con and DAB to this spectacularly priced baby five-door (and lose the £545 metallic paint) and I reckon I could do every mile of my annual motoring in a car like this.

Some testers wonder whether the Viva’s sweet and quiet three-pot has enough oomph. Maybe I’m anchored too much in budget territory, but I reckon there’s plenty. I’m especially impressed with the engine’s strength at clutch-bite revs and its flexibility when drifting about town.

THURSDAY - We’re well into the swing of this year’s Next Generation Award, Autocar’s annual competition to encourage students and graduates to find careers in the motor industry. As usual, entrants are asked to come up with a unique industry-friendly idea and submit to judging by several panels of industry experts. The 2015 winner will collect a £9000 prize plus six months’ work experience at six different car companies. Everything you need is on the web here.

SATURDAY/SUNDAY - First weekend at home with my new (15-year-old) Lotus Elise. Had one before, same colour and about the same age, but this one’s much better. The tyres are soft Yokos, the brakes are drilled discs, the dampers are Bilsteins and the (sweet) engine has a sports exhaust and may well have been chipped, because it seems pokier than my previous standard 118bhp K-series.

I’m delighted with its all-round capability, especially at the ultra-reasonable £10k price charged by my dealer mate Paul Matty, from whom I’ve bought six other Lotuses over the years.

The best thing of all about owning an early Elise again is the way it links into my life. I was writing scoop stories for these pages about ‘the new Lotus Seven’ two years before it appeared in production in 1996. I went to the press launch, got to know the designer (Julian Thomson, now at the top of Jaguar’s greasy pole), participated in the first comparison tests and drove lots of miles in our first long-termer. Now there’s an S1 in my garage again, and it feels right.

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Comments
3

22 June 2015
It's bad enough that Mercedes, for the second year in succession, has no effective competition. I'm fed up of hearing that Ferrari "has good long run performance to challenge Mercedes" since it never seems to appear so in the race. The non-works Mercedes engined cars still look off the pace, with Williams in particular seeming to have taken a backward step recently, notwithstanding a reasonable result yesterday. Now even worse, however, is the lack of any on-track competition between Hamilton and Rosberg. It seems to be the case that whoever takes pole or, more precisely, gets away from the line first, will go on to win the race (barring any stupidity such as we saw in Monaco). I was pleased to see Rosberg leading away from the start yesterday, expecting Hamilton to make a real fight of it. Not a chance. Others were able to overtake, so why did Hamilton gve up so easily, even before his five second penalty for his pit exit error? Maybe a one-two finish in whatever order is regarded by Mercedes as far more important than allowing the fans to see a real race? Roll on the British Grand Prix, another couple of hours of tedium and disappointment.

22 June 2015
Hi Steve, Good luck with the Elise, a great choice. At the risk of teaching you to suck eggs, you might want to get that checked out because, if so, your insurance company would expect to be informed. They could use non-disclosure to void your insurance, even in the event that a claim had nothing to do with the car being chipped, for example, theft.

289

22 June 2015
....IMO, the problem is that the FIA voted in the wrong man.
Jean Todt was always the wrong decision...but at the same time- the inevitable decision from an organisation completely bereft of ideas.
They missed a real opportunity there...Ari Vatanen was always the right man for the job.

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