Don't misunderstand - I like automatic gearboxes, and in some cars a manual option just wouldn't suit. Certainly there's no point when driving a 720S where you think 'this would definitely be improved by three pedals and a stick.' What I do have an issue with, however, is when automatic or dual-clutch gearboxes have manual modes the wrong way around, i.e. push the lever away to change up, and pull it towards you for down. This makes no sense and is very annoying, so please stop it. The VW Group is especially bad for it, compounding the issue with crappy plastic paddles. If autos are to become the mainstream, then why not let those people who do want to be involved actually enjoy it? Kudos to BMW, Alfa and Renault Sport for having things the correct way around, and using decent paddles too. The rest of you should look long and hard in the mirror about what you're doing wrong. Then reverse it.
This has nothing to do with the Liberty Media takeover, the ridiculous grid penalties or the continued dominance of one manufacturer. It doesn't even have to do with the new logo. Despite having grown up loving the sport, watching on adoringly as Michael Schumacher romped to victory after victory, title after title, and having devotedly recreated his heroics on my Nintendo 64, I had never had a chance to attend a race until this year.
I'd seen and heard the cars in action at multiple Festivals of Speed, of course, but those represented a now bygone era, one that I'd missed out on. So, having been to rounds of WRC, Blancpain GT3 and WEC, as well as Le Mans, the N24 and several Revivals, I finally got the opportunity to see the big one. And it was just, meh. The atmosphere was lacklustre, the cars even more so, and the on track action was few and far between. The greatest drivers and engineers in the world, perhaps, but the pinnacle of motorsport? Not for me.
With the world moving towards hybridisation and electrification there was no place in it for an 8.4-litre V10 with 'only' 645hp. The Viper was seen as a blunt instrument and far too basic to compete with its European counterparts. More practical and powerful cars in the brand's line-up were the final nail in the coffin for the American brute, and 2017 marked the end of Viper production. I unfortunately never got to drive a new Viper and now I never will.
By which I mean the apparently vertical ascent of some used car prices. Now, I can accept that a select few - and I'm talking about the fantasy stuff we all covet - are always going to be pricey. Fine. They were very expensive to buy; they always will be. Also, as distasteful as it might seem, I can even understand the doubling or trebling of list prices for some rarefied stuff that's plainly been flipped for profit. That's market forces for you, sadly. But the values being bandied about for fairly modest 15-20 year old cars now border on the offensive. I love the spikily brilliant Peugeot 205 GTI as much as anyone, but it simply isn't worth £25k. We've seen them in the classifieds recently for more than £40k. Ditto early versions of the Volkswagen Golf GTI. Sure, stuff gets more covetable as it becomes rarer, but £13k for a Ford Racing Puma with 128k on the clock just doesn't represent value for money - unless you're betting on prices continuing their remarkable climb. And if that happens, the young, penniless car enthusiasts behind us won't be left with anything old to enjoy when their time comes.
Jaguar said it was trying to give the new E-Pace similar driving dynamics to its XE saloon, which is one of the best drives in the compact executive class. It didn't manage it. The E-Pace is too tall to retain the same characteristics as a sporting saloon, so it neither rides nor handles well enough to feel like an authentic Jaguar. Try as you might, you can't change physics, which is a perennial problem when you're trying to put more 'S' into SUV.
I'm wearing full body armour and wrapped between mattresses for this one. Because one of my biggest disconnects of the year was reading the online reaction to the new McLaren Senna, a fair amount of it on PH, and thinking I was on a different planet. I was lucky enough to see the car at its media preview and reckoned that, although no natural beauty, its brutal styling was a perfect summary of its uncompromising mission for aerodynamic efficiency and downforce. Besides, how much did that matter compared to the ultra-light construction, a power-to-weight ratio superior to both the P1 and F1 and the fact it is named after the most famous racing driver of all time?
Yet most online criticism seemed to head straight to the car's design, a playground pile-on that quickly escalated to the point of suggesting anyone buying the thing was guilty of High Crimes Against Taste and seemed to almost entirely miss the point that this is a car that's designed to be driven, and which will have truly astonishing performance figures. Here's my prediction for 2018: the Senna is going to be the fastest road-legal car in the world before the Aston Valkyrie and Mercedes-AMG Project 1 get here. I'm looking forward to it enormously.
[Formula One photos: LAT Photo]