Monday, 22 April 2013
I'm trying to get together some pieces that have been publisghed elsewhere, and have them pretty much in one place. Hopefully that won't frustrate any readers that see a five-year-old post suddenly appear in their reader. Apologies if it does.
And it'll take me a while I'm afraid. I keep reading all the stuff that I wrote ages ago, and have already forgotten...
Sunday, 21 April 2013
Two things struck me both about today’s race, and the background to it.
Firstly, DRS is currently too significant. Yes there was some great passing, but some of it was just too easy. My current theory is that DRS shouldn’t affect top speed, just allow the car behind to gain the speed it would have had if it hadn’t been running in dirty air. It can’t be impossible to develop an algorithm to allow that. I’m available if the FIA is interested.
Secondly, what’s all this nonsense about letting Bahrain be the first race again (as it was in 2010, the only year that I’ve been there)? They should be happy that the race hasn’t been cancelled either this year or last, and they don’t even fill the low capacity grandstands. So why would anyone want them to have the honour (that currently Australia rightly has) of having the first race? The reason would, of course, be money; money that will not be staying in motorsport.
Friday, 12 April 2013
Just 20 minutes by train, the S10, from Zurich main station, is the best view of the city and lake you'll find.
The Uetliberg is at the top of the ridge that runs along the lake, and gives spectacular views in all directions, especially from the observation tower.
It's a 15 minute walk from the station to the viewing platform, and it is uphill, so can leave you a bit out of breath - but the view may well take your breath away too.
It's also educational, along the walk are scale models of the sun and the nine planets (eight if you're a purist and no longer count Pluto) of our solar system.
In the photo above, you can see the sun, and Mercury is a tiny ball bearing encased in the blue plastic you can just see mounted in the stone.
The Earth is about a quarter of a mile down the path.
I confess, I've never got as far as Pluto.
Friday, 5 April 2013
My view on Cyprus recently was quite simple. Let it fall out of the Euro and see what happens. If it's bad, then we protect Greece, Spain etc. If not, then maybe next time we let them go their own way. It seems to me that it's a bit like being a member of a golf club. I wouldn't expect other members to pay for me if I fell on hard times and couldn't pay my subscription. It might be (ok, it definitely would be) harsh on the citizens of cyprus, but they have a democarcy and thus all share in the state they have ended up in.
But recently I read a very good article in the London Review of Books here. I especially liked the bit about how an unexpected ten pounds had a much wider effect on the economy as a result of becoming a multiplier. I'm probably not supposed to quote this much text, but as it's less than a paragraph I'll give it a go (If you're from the LRB please let me know if you're unhappy):
Imagine for a moment that you come across an unexpected ten pounds. After making a mental note not to spend it all at once, you go out and spend it all at once, on, say, two pairs of woolly socks. The person from the sock shop then takes your tenner and spends it on wine, and the wine merchant spends it on tickets to see The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, and the owner of the cinema spends it on chocolate, and the sweet-shop owner spends it on a bus ticket, and the owner of the bus company deposits it in the bank. That initial ten pounds has been spent six times, and has generated £60 of economic activity. In a sense, no one is any better off; and yet, that movement of money makes everyone better off. To put it another way, that first tenner has contributed £60 to Britain’s GDP. Seen in this way, GDP can be thought of as a measure not so much of size – how much money we have, how much money the economy contains – but of velocity. It measures the movement of money through and around the economy; it measures activity. If you had taken the same ten quid when it was first given to you and simply paid it into your bank account, the net position could be argued to be the same – except that the only contribution to GDP is that initial gift of £10, and if this behaviour were replicated across the whole economy, then the whole economy would grind to a halt. And that, broadly speaking, is what is happening right now. People are sitting on that first tenner.
It reminded me of my simplified underlying belief in how the economy works: tell people they are living in a booming economy and they will spend, tell them it's a recession and they get worried and don't spend.
So, I'm just off down the pub to spend my tenner. How about you?
Wednesday, 21 November 2012
Well, not completely different, partially because I know very little about, for example, Flamenco Dancing (that’s still got a Spanish theme: Ed) but mainly because motorsport is what flows through a Badger’s veins, and presumably yours too.
So I got to thinking about which championship was tied up earliest in the year, Mansell’s 1992 year sprung initially to mind, but then the 1970 Sports Car Championship came to mind.
Admittedly, this is a manufacturers’ championship, not a driver’s title, but by any standards, Porsche dominated it in style. Then, as now, Ferrari were the main competition (with apologies to any McLaren fans – their car might be quicker, but it’s not still in the title race) and the 512S/512M will go down as one of the greatest sports racing cars of all time.
Unfortunately for Ferrari, the boys at Stuttgart were determined to win, and rolled out not one of the best sports cars of all time, but two. The 917 and the 908/3. With the previous year’s 908/2 as a reliable backup.
And in 1970, they used them to such good effect that they had already wrapped up the Manufacturers’ title before Le Mans. Now, if you know anything about sports car racing, you’ll know that Le Mans is traditionally held round about the second weekend of June. It was in 1970 too. So that’s like having the F1 championship sorted before Canada – which is traditionally (and irritatingly) often held on the same weekend.
Sports Car racing was much bigger in those days, a proper championship that both teams and spectators cared about. And Porsche wanted to win it.
The 917 was one of the great cars of all time. You might prefer it in the powder blue and orange of Gulf and John Wyer’s team, or maybe the red and white of Porsche Austria from Salzburg. Or the barmy psychedelic colour scheme that the Martini team ran at Le Mans. You might prefer the short tail version, or the Langheck (long tail) version. They are all fabulous.
I still love the 908/3 though. A car, essentially an F1 car with covered wheels, built to deal with the twists and turns of the Targa Florio, still 72km (40ish miles) long in it’s later days (they raced over 11 laps) but still each lap is longer than 20 laps of the Monaco circuit. That’s a proper street circuit.
They used the Targa spec 908/3 to good effect at the Nürburgring too. Ferrari did manage to win at Monza to keep the championship alive, but by the end of the Nürburgring race on May 31, Porsche had sealed the title. Admittedly, they had more cars running than Ferrari, but that was part of the game. Teams could buy cars and race them, indeed, manufacturers had to build sufficient cars so that this could happen. And while Ferrari often only claimed to have built the requisite number of cars, Porsche really did…
Porsche 917s at Zuffenhausen. Why didn’t they swap 915 and 916 for the picture?
Two races that year (other than Le Mans, which has its own life in the Steve McQueen film) stand out: Spa and Brands Hatch. And one driver: Pedro Rodriguez.
In 1970, races at Spa were still being held on the long circuit, and I won’t bore you here with tales of the Masta Kink again. All I’ll say is that it was fast. Very fast. Pedro set his fastest lap of the race at 3 min, 16.5 secs, which sounds like a long time. But his average speed was 258 kph (160.5 mph). Blindingly quick in a long distance race. I know JP Montoya went slightly quicker than this over one lap at Monza in qualifying, but I don’t think he did in a race. Please let me know if I’m wrong – and either way, this is a much longer lap and a 30 year older car.
But it’s the Brands Hatch 1000km race that stands out. We hear a lot about driving standards at the moment – ignoring blue or yellow flags, blocking etc but that’s not a new phenomenon. It was a rain-affected race and soon after the start, one of the Lolas spun on the main straight. The yellows came out and the leaders slowed, apart from Pedro, who barely lifted. Out came the black flag (which he ignored for a good few laps, although I’m guessing that vision was not great, and there were no radios) meaning that Pedro had to come in for an interview with the Clerk of the Course. Not a drive-through penalty, not even a stop and go. A stop, get out, and go up to the Clerk of the Course’s office, where you will get a stern telling off and if you’re lucky he’ll let you go back into the race.
Pedro was furious (although he had sensibly nodded contritely whilst in the presence of the CotC) and set off into the spray determined to wring the best out of the car. This is the race for which Pedro Rodriguez will probably be most remembered; partnered with a pay driver, his job was to do most of the driving, and build up a lead that his slower partner would not lose. And he certainly did that. The race was 235 laps long, but no other car managed to complete more than 230. Despite his unwanted interview Pedro managed to lap everybody else five times. Impressive isn’t the word.
Pedro sadly died in 1971 at the wheel of a Ferrari 512, doubly tragic as his younger brother Ricardo had been killed in practice for the 1962 Mexican Grand Prix. How do families cope with that?
We have another Mexican in F1 now, and next year he’ll be in one of the quickest cars there is. If Checo does win a race next year, I hope he remembers Pedro and Ricardo during the driver interviews.
If this has awoken your interest in Sports Car racing, you could do worse than watch Porsche’s film of that year:
Sunday, 5 February 2012
They don’t phrase it like that of course, it’s probably never occurred to them. And undoubtedly people have different reasons for saying that he’s not. So let’s take a look at a few of those reasons:
- Rubens is doing a good job and deserves another year in F1. I’m sorry, but nobody “deserves” anything in F1. If you are not doing absolutely the best job that can be done for the team, you should be replaced with someone that can do the job better. Regardless whether you are the driver, the technical director, an aero analyst or the guy that drives parts to the airport. What’s more difficult, is how you define the role of “driver”, but we’ll look at that later.
- Bruno is a pay driver and F1 shouldn’t have pay drivers. Some of you may know my view that Bruno, Adrian, Jérôme and Co are not pay drivers, but drivers that bring a budget. A “pay driver” is someone who is there only to bring the team money, in much the same way as Brands Hatch makes money if we pay to drive one of their single seaters. Giovanni Lavaggi was a “pay driver”, Bruno et al are not. When you accept that all drivers get paid different amounts, is it actually a big step to accept that some of those amounts could conceivably be zero or negative?
- Bruno is not likely to drive as well as Rubens. Well, Rubens has certainly had some mega drives at various stages in his career and didn’t do too badly last year but we are simply not in a position to analyse this. We know he is “experienced” and although we hear that he communicates well with engineers, maybe Bruno is even better? He apparently had extensive time in the simulator for the team to evaluate him, and looking at his performance against Petrov, after stepping in mid-season (remember Fisichella and Badoer at Ferrari) he did well in what was effectively his first F1 car
- Someone else should have got the drive. Well, clearly not - otherwise Williams would have picked them. I’m sure they’d have loved to have kept Hulkenberg after 2010, but that wasn’t an option, for financial reasons, but I’ll cover that in a later piece.
When a team picks a driver, they do it for reasons that are unique to that team. The financial package, much talked about in connection with Bruno, is one of those aspects, but it's far from the only one; a topic for another time perhaps? And as Williams picked Bruno, he’s right for the job. It’s as simple as that. If you don't agree, you could always start your own team.
This piece was originally posted on www.badgergp.com where I now write a weekly comment on Wednesdays