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Motorsport

With the world focussed on sports that where men play with balls, we'd rather focus on one where you need them (at least figuratively). If it doesn't have an engine, it's not here.

Who'd have thunk it? When Hamilton, suffering from a cold so severe he questioned if he would be able to drive, stuck his car on pole yesterday, and Ferrari missed Q3 with one car and missed qualifying altogether with the other, surely it was all over. Then when the rain came down, the cooler air favoured the Mercedes which had been struggling to match the pace of the Ferraris all weekend. Red Bull's Verstappen picked up P2 and Bottas in P3 and it looked as if the race had been decided. How wrong could we be: the race was "decided" over and over again as the Hockenheim track said "if this is my swansong, it's going to be a good one."

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If one could ever say that a circuit has a soul, one must, surely, say that about Silverstone, the home of the British Grand Prix for almost every running of that race since Formula One was born. And if a soul can be resurrected, to come alive and celebrate, Silverstone did just that. As the F1 circus rolled into town and set up shop, the biggest question was if this would be the last F1 at Silverstone and, even, if there would be a British Grand Prix after 2019. While the terms of the deal are secret, it is likely that the British Racing Drivers' Club, the owners of the former airfield and Liberty, the owners of F1, have done a deal under which the cost of running the race is reduced. The deal makes sure F1 comes home for at least the next five years. Then the grand old dame of F1 shed all her cares and woes and partied and what a party it was..

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Lewis Hamilton has long been amazing and he's just getting better and better. And still the public don't get behind a driver who is set to eclipse every record in F1 history - and has already done so in most. He is now beyond being statistically interesting: it seems like every time he gets in the car it's another milestone or another record. And that's before we consider his driving which has reached a level of excellence that is so good it doesn't inspire devotion. We are in the presence of greatness, a true star and one who doesn't cheat to achieve it (although he can be brutal when needed and sometimes has gone too far). His French Grand Prix 2019 demonstrated things that the naysayers won't be impressed by. They should be.

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Motor racing is, sometimes, the cruellest of sports. There was no competition for the Toyota Hybrids as they closed out their season and the end of their very successful venture into LMP1. And, as the race wore on, it was clear that the early lead taken by Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez developed into a routine. Nothing would stop them winning their first major race and it was well deserved. Then the tech started to play up..

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The Circuit of Catalunya, Barcelona, venue for the Spanish Grand Prix for both F1 and MotoGP is often the source of drama. But the MotoGp 2019 race was drama with what may turn out to be huge consequences. And it all began because someone started to call the Barcelona circuit "Lorenzo Land."

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The Canadian Grand Prix produced excellent and exciting racing. Strategy played almost no part and we were treated to motor racing at its best. Sadly, the racing has been overshadowed.

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I'm highly critical of American style oval racing. It's far too orchestrated by "IndyCar" or "Nascar" and it's boring unless there's a crash (and who wants to wish for crashes that cause injury or death?). After all, who wants to sit through 185 laps only for a crash to force the "full course yellow" or, even, "safety car" that sets up the cars for the only bit that really matters: the last ten laps or so to the finish. I've watched it, on and off, for several decades and it's almost always Dullsville personified. Until this year's Indy 500. Oh, how I wish they could all be like this.

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Lewis Hamilton made perhaps the most prescient statement of recent times in Formula One. He said that Ferrari have a faster car than Mercedes. But Mercedes, he said, have the better team, saying that the systems, the strength in depth in all departments, the stability are what give him and team-mate Valtteri Bottas the machinery that allows them to do the job. And with four one-two finishes in the first four races, in each case at least in part due to Ferrari fluffing something, even in the dense air of below sea level Baku which should have increased the red cars' performance advantage, it's increasingly looking as if he's right. But the apparent Sunday afternoon jog for the two Mercedes drivers around the streets of Azerbaijan's capital, Baku, is as much to do with the failures of others as the strength of Mercedes. Ferrari are not the only ones struggling to get it together.
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F1 is fascinating for many reasons: one is the fact that there are days when one tiny event means not winning, when nearly perfect isn't good enough. And there's the fact that it's a brutal sport where fairness goes out of the window as soon as the lights go out at the first race of the season. Just three races into 2019 and it's already clear that even though much has changed, much has stayed the same.

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This day had to come: Marc Marquez has, unusually, been defeated by the forces of nature. Holding a commanding lead at the US GP at the Circuit of the Americans in Austin, one of the most fundamental aspects of motor-racing was demonstrated and he fell off leaving the result of the race, and the Championship, to cause more shaking of heads than a room full of joyous fan-boys.

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Charles Leclerc fumbled the start and saw his pole position evaporate. It was the only thing he did wrong in the entire race as he took the lead in an audacious move on his team leader, Sebastian Vettel, and didn't look back for the simple reason there was no one to see in his mirrors. Until gremlins arrived.

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I should say up front that I am not a fan of DRS but I concede that, sometimes, it's helped spice up what was an otherwise processional race. But in F1 this year, there seems to be a plan to have more DRS zones. Last night's race in Bahrain had three. When DRS was introduced, tracks had one. And, last night, DRS made an extremely positive contribution to the race but its contribution was limited and artificial. What if the DRS rules were changed to remove the limitation and artificiality?

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I've had the chance to watch an Indycar race on TV, something that, because of various rights fights, has been denied me for several years. There's good close racing but there's a lot wrong both with the rules and the way the sport is presented. What should have been edge of the seat stuff turned into a festival of yawns and a great deal of frustration. And then there's the cars.

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It's a question that three years ago had a clear answer: yes; easily. Now, it's far more complicated. How far, then, should F1 go to appease the Italian team?

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It might look like the tail fin from Concord but it's Bloodhound SSC, rescued this week by British businessman Ian Warhurst after entering liquidation last October.

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