Lewis Hamilton celebrates winning the French Grand Prix – video

Lewis Hamilton produced a dominant display in the French Grand Prix to reclaim the lead at the top of the World Championship standings. The Mercedes driver led virtually from start to finish  to move 14 points ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who finished fifth. Hamilton described his race as ‘quiet’ and paid tribute to his team for the condition of his car

Report: Hamilton wins in France with Vettel fifth

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Source: Formula 1

Pikes Peak 2018: electric Volkswagen ID R Pikes Peak smashes outright record

Volkswagen ID R Pikes Peak

The electric Volkswagen ID R Pikes Peak has set a new outright hill record

Frenchman Romain Dumas has broken the sub-eight minutes barrier in his 671bhp EV racer, shattering Sebastien Loeb’s record on the 12.42-mile hill climb

Romain Dumas has smashed the outright record for the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in the electric Volkswagen ID R Pikes Peak.

The Volkswagen Motorsport team was targeting the electric record for the event, but Dumas’s time of 7min 57.148secs on the 12.42-mill course eclipsed the overall mark of 8min 13.878secs, set by Sébastien Loeb in the Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak in 2013.

Pikes Peak notebook: insight and updates from the event

Dumas averaged 90.538mph on the 156-turn course in the ID R Pikes Peak, which produces around 671bhp from two electric motors. The machine had been built for the project in just seven months.

“We exceeded even our own high expectations,” said Dumas. “Since this week’s tests, we have known that it was possible to break the all-time record. For it to come off, everything had to come together perfectly – from the technology to the driver. And the weather had to play ball too.

“That everything ran so smoothly is an incredible feeling, and the new record on Pikes Peak is the icing on the cake.

“The I.D. R Pikes Peak is the most impressive car I have ever driven in competition. The electric drivetrain means that many things are different and I learned a lot during the project.”

Breaking the record is a major milestone for a full electric motorsport programme, representing the first time an EV has proven quick than a combustion engines machine on a major event.

Insight: why Volkswagen targeted Pikes Peak for electric motorsport project

The event does suit battery-powered electric cars because, unlike international combustion engines, they don’t lost power at altitude. The finish line of Pikes Peak is 14,115ft above sea level.

More updates to follow.

Read more

Pikes Peak notebook: insight and updates from the event

Insight: why Volkswagen targeted Pikes Peak for electric motorsport project

Pikes Peak 2013: Loeb and Peugeot smash hill record

Source: Autocar Online

Lewis Hamilton wins French Grand Prix as Sebastian Vettel finishes fifth

• Mercedes driver regains world championship lead
• Red Bull’s Verstappen is second and Ferrari’s Räikkönen third

Lewis Hamilton won the French Grand Prix, the first the country has held for 10 years, with a controlled and dominant run from pole for Mercedes. But his championship rival Sebastian Vettel made an error on the opening lap that forced him almost to the back of the field and he could manage only fifth. The Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo came in second and fourth respectively with Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen securing the final podium place.

Hamilton had the race in his hands from the moment he avoided contact on the first lap at turn one that cost his teammate Valtteri Bottas, who finished seventh, and Vettel. While they were forced into fighting back, Hamilton made the most of his position. Having started at Paul Ricard a point behind in the title race, the result means he has retaken the lead and is now 14 points in front of Vettel.

Related: Lewis Hamilton wins the French Grand Prix: F1 – live!

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Source: Formula 1

French Grand Prix: F1 live!

2.44pm BST

Ocon discussing how he always dreamed of becoming a Formula 1 driver, which is nice. His dad threatened him with working in McDonald’s if he failed to make it in the sport.

2.39pm BST

Charles Leclerc seems to be pretty pleased with where he is starting. The man from Monaco fancies a bit of rain to add a touch of spice to the race. He is the nearest they have a home driver, so can expect a lot of support from the crowds.

Well, apart from Gasly and Ocon.

2.37pm BST

Lewis Hamilton need not worry about England winning…

Related: Lewis Hamilton hoping for World Cup boost before French Grand Prix

2.33pm BST

Here are the first six on the grid today…

1) Lewis Hamilton — Mercedes

2.31pm BST

And here is a reminder of what happened during qualifying…

Related: Lewis Hamilton storms into pole for resurrected French Grand Prix

2.29pm BST

Looks like a nice day at the circuit, so hopefully we will avoid the rain that was rumoured yesterday.

2.24pm BST

A feel good story from France as barriers are being broken down in Saudi society with a little help from Formula One

Related: Saudi woman drives Formula One car to mark end of ban

2.18pm BST

McLaren have endured a terrible time of it this weekend already, as their car does not look like it can compete at all at this level. Fernando Alonso has just won Le Mans, so might be a bit tired but there’s still plenty of positivity in their garage, with some rather optimistic claims they could get some points in France.

2.14pm BST

Giles Richards has written about why it’s great fun to be back in France…

Related: The French GP is back: ‘We love F1 here, its return is good for everybody’

1.05pm BST

Lewis Hamilton is on pole as he looks to overtake Sebastian Vettel in the championship. Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas is in second and Vettel settles for third at the start. The real qualifying success was Charles Leclerc who made it to eighth in a Sauber, which is a minor miracle.

But less about the short-term, it really is exciting to be back in France at Paul Ricard. We’ve been away from France for 10 years and they’ve really made a lot of effort to bring F1 back to the country. Patriotism is on show, with the run-off areas painted red and blue, with the colour representing how abrasive an area a driver might be in in order to stop them hitting the wall.

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Source: Formula 1

John O’Groats to Land’s End in a hydrogen fuel cell car

Toyota Mirai

Our Mirai has many miles but few fuelling opportunities ahead

The hydrogen fuel cell Toyota Mirai is the future (according to its name in Japanese, at least), but how does it fare on British roads today? We drove one from John O’Groats to Land’s End, via the UK’s tiny network of hydrogen stations, to find out

In Orkney, so much electricity is generated by wind, waves and the power of tides that the islands struggle to find a use for it all.

In theory, it could be transferred to mainland Scotland, except that the seabed cable required to achieve this would apparently cost around £250 million. So instead, some of this surplus electricity is used to split water into its constituent parts, the hydrogen element stored in pressurised gas canisters and ferried to Kirkwall, the capital of Orkney. Once there, the hydrogen is used to produce… electricity.

If that sounds rather a wasteful thing to do, well, welcome to the world of energy generation, and the awkward challenge of storing and transporting that energy to the place you want it, at the time you want it.

What has this got to do with driving a fuel cell Toyota Mirai from John O’Groats to Land’s End? A lot more than you might think, and in ways that may eventually affect not only the way that your car is propelled, but also how your house is heated too.

The way to look at a fuel cell electric car, explains Jon Hunt, Toyota GB’s alternative fuels manager, is to see it as one component within a cycle of future energy generation and usage. Fuelling a car – and your house, heating and hi-fi – is going to get a lot more complex than an energy company piping volts to your junction box. Instead, it’s going to become a world of give and take, of energy generated by a mix of intermittent renewables and less desirable, but reliable, fossil fuels.

But enough, for now, of the potential energy cycles of tomorrow. Right now, our task is to drive the 230-odd miles from John O’Groats to Aberdeen. Not usually a problem with a conventional car, of course, or even a pure electric car if you plan some recharging stops, but in a fuel cell car, the challenge lies in the fact that there are presently only nine hydrogen refuelling stations in the UK.

There will be 16 by the end of the year, but that’s of little help to us now, which is why we are specifically heading for Aberdeen, where there is a brand-new hydrogen fuel station. The Mirai will travel a hell of a lot further than the often mythical 100 miles of small electric cars – its not-quite-full hydrogen tanks contain enough to carry us 198 miles, according to the trip computer. Which is a pity, because the first leg is 230 miles.

So it looks like we’ll be heading south slowly, though not unknowingly, with the Mirai’s trip computer providing real-time updates of our hydrogen consumption and range.

This is automotive on-board data with a difference, the units of measurement being kilograms of hydrogen used per hundred kilometres rather than mpg. The Mirai’s twin tanks (there are two of these carbonfibre, glassfibre-encased cylinders solely for packaging reasons) hold 5kg at a pressure of 10,000psi, or 700 bar. A supply of 5kg doesn’t sound much, and alarmingly less when the screen read-out tells us that we’re getting through it at the rate of 2.5kg per 100km. But Hunt tells us that the high initial reading is partly because of the difficulty of measuring the consumption of a fuel that tends to careen in multiple directions rather than consistently flow like petrol.

Just a few ginger miles into our trip, consumption halves to 1.2kg/km. But to have a chance of eking out our hydrogen reserves to 230 miles, I’ll have to score a running average of 0.9kg or less, warns Hunt. So we’ll be holding up traffic shortly.

There’s little of it about at first, though. We amble along at 50mph or so, enjoying the Mirai’s boldly individual dashboard. There’s much staring at the consumption read-out, of course, but also the swooping edges and hard corners of the infotainment display and the centre console. It’s not an especially beautiful piece of sculpture, this dashboard, but it’s interestingly busy, rather like the Mirai’s oxygen-gulping, air-cleaving body, which is now occasionally being impeded by traffic. More often, though, it’s the other way around: the desire to go slowly and conserve our hydrogen supplies (now that sounds like a phrase of the future) is still strong despite a consumption rate that has fallen to the desired 0.9kg per 100km.

Soon will come hills, however, in the undulating and picturesque form of the Cairngorms. Why climb when we could travel more flatly closer to the coast? Because it should be quieter, and because theM1, when it comes, will be a long and dull contrast. To improve our economising, snapper Luc Lacey joins the back-up Land Cruiser with all his kit to reduce the Mirai’s load, and I run with the air conditioner off, which is more of a sacrifice than it might sound on this sunny day in spring-like Scotland. The Cairngorms promise an entertaining challenge – the aim being to avoid heightening the Mirai’s hydrogen appetite despite an assortment of ascents.

With ascents come descents, of course, offering the chance for some fuel saving, and potentially of the exciting kind. Exciting economising? Absolutely, because the aim is to gain as much downhill momentum as you dare and conserve it, ideally with the minimum of braking. Given that there’s an on-board, fuel cell-supplementing, nickel- metal hydride battery pack in regular need of a charge, avoiding the brakes mightseem a surprise because you’d expect to use them to provide regeneration opportunities. However, there’s no scope for regeneration with the Mirai, explains Hunt, because there’s only one motor, andit therefore can’t double as a generator. The brakes are to be avoided, then, within safe reason. Still, when you’re gaining speed down a Cairngorm and trying not to lose it, that can get quite thrilling.

The roads are empty enough to uncover a slightly unexpected and deeply pleasing quality of the Mirai, which is that it will comfortably navigate corners at quite a pace and minimal drama, despite its relatively simple MacPherson strut, torsion beam axle suspension, and a fair bit of heft. One major reason is that it is low-lying heft – its fuel cell, battery and motor packaging providing a low centre of gravity. Another is decent chassis balance. This is no sports saloon, but the Mirai is certainly fleet of low-rolling-resistance foot, besides providing encouragingly precise steering.

All of which makes this section of the trip pretty enjoyable. And to the surprise of several of us, pretty productive on the economy front too, the Mirai’s hunger dropping to 0.6kg per 100 km. Our 80-mile range is now three miles greater than the remaining distance to Aberdeen, and when we get there, that difference has grown to 38 miles. Hunt reckons there’s a reserve beyond that too.

None of which diminishes the relief of seeing Aberdeen’s shiny new hydrogen refuelling station, this city boldly pushing ahead with the hydrogen fuel cell cause. Like Orkney, Aberdeen has an excessof wind power, as well as a highly skilled workforce available from the now-declining North Sea oil industry. Aberdeen now has the busiest hydrogen fuel station in Europe and, indeed, we are part of the unlikely sight of a queue of refuelling Mirais. It’s impressive to realise that in Aberdeen and Orkney, the hydrogen fuel cell economy is already here.

That there’s still a long way to go is underlined at our next stop in Sunderland on day two, where we replenish the Mirai from a hydrogen-dispensing truck provided by Fuel Cell Systems. The reason that the refuelling takes place at a factory in Tyne and Wear, rather than at a handy truck stop en route, is 

The route: 

If you’re driving from John O’Groats to Land’s End the direct way, you don’t go to easterly Aberdeen, even if that’s further south. It’s no more helpful to head to east-coast Sunderland, nor Rotherham or Beaconsfield, even if all are closer to the equator and therefore to Land’s End. But this roundabout route, as you’ll have guessed, was dictated by the availability of hydrogen fuelling stations.

Surf ’N’ turf hydrogen project: 

On Eday, an island in Orkney, there’s so much wind power that they often have to stall the wind turbines, because there’s nowhere for the electricity to go. Which is how the idea of using it to electrolyse water to yield hydrogen came about.

That hydrogen is pumped into steel canisters and shipped to Kirkwall, the Orkney capital, where it’s turned back into electricity by a room full of fuel cells.

The power is used by ferries docked and reloading at Kirkwall Pier, while the heat generated is used by local buildings.

Aberdeen hydrogen station: 

The once oil-rich Aberdeen has developed a hydrogen strategy in conjunction with many funders and partners including the EU, energy companies, the Scottish Government, the local council, transport operators and car makers.

How Toyota makes the Mirai: 

There’s one powerful reason why the little pilot plant where Toyota’s hand-made, hydrogen-powered Mirai comes to life looks so very much like it could otherwise be building an Aston or a McLaren.

It’s because this same plant that turns out one Mirai every 70 minutes — buried inside Toyota’s giant Motomachi works that started making Crown family saloons in 1959 — was previously the crucible of a run of500 Lexus LFA supercars, using a similar recipe of exotic materials and practising the same principles of hand manufacture.

Toyota started making the Mirai in 2014 and has so far sold around 3000 copies in the US, 1500 in Japan and 200 in Europe. Production is slowly ramping up while opinions continue to vary globally over whether hydrogen fuel cell propulsion can ever be important enough to be viable.

There’s considerable scepticism on our side of the world that contrasts heavily with the view in Japan and Korea that such cars represent an essential step towards the zero- emissions ‘hydrogen society’ seen by many, including Asian governments, as an ultimate objective.

For now, Mirai manufacture is almost entirely by hand. A tight-knit body of workers uses muscle to push the chassis on trolleys along a tiny production line, adding fascia, powertrain and suspension sub- assemblies hand-made off-line by others. Even operations like the bonding-in of the windscreen, robotised almost everywhere else, are done by hand.

Not that the operation lacks modernity: bodies are painted by the same process used for bigger-volume Motomachi models. Hand-picked technicians wield computer-linked power tools. Work requires constant verification and signing off (though on paper, in actual handwriting). Toyota aims to build the next Mirai on its new, highly flexible TGNA architecture, already configured for a fuel cell version.

For now, the current Mirai’s unique architecture and slow build rate suffice. But Toyota remains adamant that hydrogen cars are heading for practicality and prominence. And having confounded hybrid sceptics by so far putting 10 million Prius family cars on the road, it has earned the right to be confident. 

Read more

Toyota Prius review 

Toyota Mirai review

Toyota Avensis review

Source: Autocar Online

PSA maps out Vauxhall’s path to profitability

From a point of near-bankruptcy in 2012, the PSA Group has turned around its fortunes…

Vauxhall’s recovery plan is certainly ambitious, but its new owner has shown before that it can work

Opel and Vauxhall have not posted a full-year profit this century, losing about £15 billion in the past 17 years. That represents a catastrophic failure by any measure, but it also highlights just how ambitious the recovery plan set out by new owner the PSA Group is.

The strategy, called ‘Pace’, calls for (among other things) a 2% operating profit margin by 2020 and 6% by 2026. The latter figure is about the level the PSA Group is at today.

With the first anniversary of PSA’s takeover coming up in August, and that ambitious profit target marked as a line in the sand, the expectation is that the cost-cutting seen so far will continue, and that Opel and Vauxhall will get back on the front foot in terms of defining their goals and shaping up to launch new cars. But, as PSA CEO Carlos Tavares warns, more sales won’t mean fewer cuts: “Size does not define efficiency. And we will pull every lever we can to be efficient.”

Some aspects of the cost-cutting have been well documented, such as the 650 job losses at the Ellesmere Port plant. Insiders talk in awe at the speed of the decision-making processes compared with the days of GM ownership. “When Tavares sees a logical plan, he asks one of two questions,” said a source. “‘When can we do it?’ or ‘Why haven’t we done it?’ The hard decisions are getting made.”

So, too, have seemingly simple ones. One of the first jobs of PSA’s new management was to try to rationalise the product offerings. “Insignia buyers had 27 steering wheel options,” said Opel-Vauxhall CEO Michael Lohscheller, “but around 90% were opting for one of two designs. Yet we were buying in, storing, stock managing the others. It was so complex, so inefficient.”

Lohscheller doesn’t tell that story to criticise GM, but rather to highlight why he believes the 2% profit goal by 2020 is achievable. The savings to date are in part why the company was acknowledging, if not celebrating, that it had cut running costs by a remarkable 17% by the end of 2017, five months into the new regime. Even so, the champagne stayed on ice: accounts filed last month revealed that, during that period, Vauxhall and Opel still cost its parent company £160 million in losses.

Hence the need to get on the front foot with new product launches too – because that gives dealers access to the latest, very best products and, as Max Warburton, senior analyst at Bernstein Research, highlighted, because it sets the firm on the path to achieving its stated goal of stripping around £620 of cost from each car it makes. This, for instance, is why the new Corsa was delayed while it is engineered to sit on PSA’s small car platform and why the next Astra will share its underpinnings with the Peugeot 308.

“PSA’s own turnaround has been rather unconventional,” said Warburton, recalling the firm’s own near-bankruptcy in 2012. Years of multi-billion-pound losses had finally reached crisis point, ending with the Peugeot family selling around half of its shareholding in the firm to stay afloat.

“Car industry history is full of comeback stories but they normally involve deep restructuring at a time of economic crisis, a radical improvement in product range and substantial volume growth. PSA under Tavares hasn’t really seen any of these things.

“Instead, it’s been a series of small things that collectively add up to a big improvement in performance: some job cuts and early retirements; a big focus on standardisation and purchasing cost reductions; slashing all non-essential spending; sorting out some chronically loss-making emerging markets. Then an intense focus on pricing – being very calculated on reining in discounts and pushing up prices if feasible. Tavares has shown it’s possible even on weak brands and products.”

PSA may be an anomaly, but its strategy is working. In 2017, the firm made £3.5bn: its most financially successful year to date. As the graph on page 16 shows, Peugeot’s operating profit margin is the envy of most mass-market manufacturers. To paraphrase Warburton, that’s not a bad situation for a firm that arguably makes one market- leading car (the 5008), one good car (the 3008) and a host of decent, if not inspiring, ones.

“PSA provides the template for Opel,” adds Warburton.

“Cynics argue that the brands are too weak to save and, after a decade of cost cutting by GM, there’s not much to do. That’s too pessimistic. There are always things that good management can find and improve. Cut and paste the PSA strategy across to Opel and you might just find it works. It won’t be straightforward, it’s theoretically possible.”

Under Tavares’s leadership, the goals for Opel and Vauxhall could not be more explicit, nor the blueprint for success so clearly written before them. “We have faced a near-death experience,” says Tavares. “That means we can be more Darwinian, thinking with agility to survive. The choices we must make to thrive are very clear.” 

A model of efficiency: 

There are many measures of a company’s success, and some view operating profit margins as a rather blunt and simplistic measure.

“Profit margins give a broad approximation of what return a business is making and how healthy it is,” says Max Warburton, senior analyst at Bernstein Research. “Investors are often surprised that Peugeotis making higher margins than VW, given the VW brand has better mix, pricing and volumes. But it’s not complicated – the PSA Group has vastly better labour efficiency.

It makes many more cars per employee than VW, its plants build each car in fewer hours and it doesn’t make stuff like axles, seats and interior plastics in-house the way VW does.

“It’s incredibly tough to make money building mass-market cars but if you’re not making at least 4-5% operating margins, then you’re unlikely to have the underlying cash flow to invest in new-generation products and technology.”

Read more

Vauxhall Astra VXR review 

Vauxhall Corsa review 

Vauxhall Adam review

Source: Autocar Online

Volvo V60

Volvo V60 2018 road test review hero front
Volvo’s reborn estate has a svelte image and upmarket aspirations. How does the V60 stack up against the likes of Mercedes and BMW?

If you fancy a challenge, try understating the transformation Volvo has undergone since it was offloaded by Ford eight years ago.Under chief designer Thomas Ingenlath, the brand has since unleashed a series of beautiful, powerfully styled concept cars and then followed them up with recognisably related production models.Its engineers have developed an economically viable, effective powertrain strategy whereby four-cylinder diesel and petrol engines are adapted to a broad range of mission briefs with the use of supercharging, turbocharging and, increasingly, plug-in hybrid technology.There are 48V mild hybrids to come in 2019 as Europe adapts to a post-Dieselgate market and plans are currently being put in place to meet ambitious expectations for demand in autonomous technologies and the purchasing of cars through a subscription service.Now, under the auspices of Chinese multinational Geely, Volvo is a savvy organisation earning record profits and routinely challenging for best in class. It’s a different world from the one in which the marque was quietly admired by those of a certain persuasion for the manner in which a dog-eared 240 GL would dispatch a quarter of a million miles without histrionics.So where does the V60, introduced as an uncharacteristically svelte Volvo estate in 2010 and now in its second generation, fit in?You might be surprised to learn that profit is not necessarily its primary objective. The market for premium estate cars is, after all, a shrinking one (we’ll let you guess where those in need of family transport are now choosing to put their money), but as a premium brand looking to cement its new-found aspirational charm, it’s one in which it is imperative for Volvo to be regarded among the best.That means matching, and perhaps exceeding, the likes of the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4 in terms of practicality, desirability and performance. While that’s no mean feat, we suspect many of those lining up the purchase of a mid-sized premium estate would welcome an excuse to go somewhere other than those German marques.The question is whether this new V60 will allow them to do so without regret.

Source: Autocar Online

Lewis Hamilton storms into pole for resurrected French Grand Prix

• Briton takes 75th career pole ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas
• Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel third on grid as F1 returns to France

Lewis Hamilton took pole for the French Grand Prix, the first driver to claim the top spot at the race on its return after a 10-year absence. He was pushed to the limit by his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas but the British driver nailed an exceptional final lap to deny the Finn. Both were well clear of Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari who was in third place, in front of the Red Bull of Max Verstappen.

Hamilton had looked in fine form throughout the session and pulled it together during Q3 with some clinical finishing. He had gone quickest on his first hot run in Q3, a tenth up on Bottas and two-tenths clear of Vettel. When they ran again, however, Bottas threw down the gauntlet with an exceptionally sharp lap on his final run. Hamilton responded, nailed the final sector and finished with a time of 1min 30.029sec, one-tenth up on the Finn and with Vettel floundering four-tenths back.

Related: Losing F1 ‘a huge mistake’ says man behind French Grand Prix’s revival | Giles Richards

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Source: Formula 1

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