Sunday, January 13, 2013

2.3 Seconds Is A Lot In F1

F1 has been an obsession of mine for quite a few years, probably since Damon Hill tangled with Schumacher on a tight Adelaide corner. While the Internet has helped bridge the gap between myself and F1, my home town of Perth, in Australia, has always been so removed from the thrill of F1 racing. Imagine my excitement when Perth born Daniel Ricciardo started to make waves on the way to the pinnacle of open wheel racing.

I learnt of Daniel as he ground out success in Formula Renault. I urged him on, hopeful his connections with Red Bull would help him find a drive in F1. I was so proud when Daniel drove on to the Albert Park race track in 2011 as Toro Rosso's reserve and Practice 1 test driver. Again when Daniel participated in his first F1 race in Great Britain for struggling HRT I was beaming. Watching someone from my tiny, out of the way home make it in one of the most competitive sports was amazing!

Tonight I was at a basketball game. My local team, the Perth Wildcats, was beating the visitors from Melbourne. I've been a regular at games for quite a few years and love the Wildcats almost as much as I love F1. Many local celebrities frequent the basketball. Former Chicago Bull, Luc Longley, sits with brother in law Ben Elton. Comedians rub shoulders with blonde weather girls, wealthy flirts flex their bank accounts at other wealthy flirts and nobody cares they are there. But tonight, someone else was there.

The court announcer spoke over the three quarter time entertainment. Like he regularly does, he mentioned a few famous names enjoying the game tonight. Wide eyed, I stopped when I realised that amongst the 13 thousand strong crowd was Daniel Ricciardo! The boy from the northern suburbs making it with the rest of the world. So preoccupied, I glazed over, unaware of the finishing basketball game.

With 13 thousand people around I accepted it was most unlikely I would get to meet Daniel. Despite the futility, I scanned the crowd while I made my way to the foyer. Waiting for my partner to join me, I found a spot against the wall where I could scan the faces as people made their way out of the arena. That's when it happened. That's when I saw Daniel Ricciardo!

He came out of the toilets and immediately I recognised him. A bearded Daniel paused a moment while his family caught up, before walking towards me. I was beaming, quite definitely staring as Daniel became aware of me, the same way you're aware of someone trying to hand you a flyer in an arcade. As you would with the flyer, Daniel attempted the no look pass. Awkwardly I asked him if I could shake his hand. Having just exited the toilet, and failing to dry adequately, Daniel wiped his hand against his pants pocket before extending it. His handshake was that of a fit sportsman. Immediately I could tell he was lean and strong. No signs of a relaxed pre season, Daniel is clearly business all year round.

Just like that, the moment was over. Daniel never broke stride. Now accustomed to waiting fans, he keeps moving like a pro. It was less than 3 seconds but it was pretty cool, to me anyway.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Codemasters Offers First Look At Austin

Codemasters has released its first look at the latest F1 track, The Circuit of the Americas, to be included in F1 2012. The track in an homage to many great F1 tracks including Silverstone, Hockenheim, Interlagos and even Istanbul Park's famous turn 8. Also noted is the new feature to the Codemasters F1 games, changing brake bias on the track. Hopefully one of the many new features to watch out for when the game comes out in September.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Nico Comes Of Age. Chinese GP 2012

As if written by wishful german storytellers, qualifying made the Mercedes team smiles bigger than a St Pauli Girl's boobs! Managing to pluck half a second out of thin air, Nico Rosberg set a time so fast, his smugness could be seen easier than the Great Wall! Hamilton cleared the way for a Mercedes front row by an untimely gear box change pushing him back through the field.

The GP started with relative courtesy, Nico quickly grabbing the lead. Schumacher, relieved to be near the pointy end, was happy to follow his team mate while the rest of the pack worked out the order. Alonso, making up for the Ferrari's lack of qualifying pace, showed his usual brilliance on cold tyres, shoving his peers out of the way with world-champion brilliance.

Red Bull accidentally found the reverse gear, forcing Vettel back through the pack while Webber's usual start lost him a place or two. Meanwhile, Lotus' Grosjean quickly racked up more laps than his first two GP combined!

Webber showed the way with an early stop for rubber, quickly knocking in the fastest lap time, encouraging a mass pilgrimage into pit lane. Thought a good idea by most, Mercedes opted to stay out, noting Nico's brilliant lap times knocking on the door of Webber's fast lap.

The Mercedes pit controller is looking for a new job this week, releasing Schumacher before all four tyres were on. Schumacher quickly came to a stop on track while the pit controller was last seen running west, holding up a stop sign to anyone who followed.

Nico showed the brilliance of this years Merc when passing Massa's Ferrari. The Ferrari was yet to pit while Nico was making good use of Pirelli freshness. On the back straight, Nico passed Massa through the DRS zone as if Massa was lunching with Schumacher. Could this be the power of the Merc stalled front wing?

Pushing the Red Bull, a can of the energy drink must have slipped out on to Webber's front wing as Webber grew flying wings and did the best wheelie in F1 for decades! Claiming to be saving tyre wear, the Red Bull quickly fell back to the ground and got on with it, disappointing Petrov, who's attempt at flying an F1 car in Malaysia last year resulted in retirement.

Jenson pushed his McLaren, chasing down Nico in what should have been a nail biting finish but fell at the last hurdle through a pit mistake, adding more than 7 extra seconds to Nico's lead. Unsurmountable, the GP became Nico's to lose.

The dying laps proved exciting as the top 13 cars came within a second of each other, creating a spectacle not normally seen in F1. Kimi lead the field around the track, defending with smart use of the KERS, till his tyres sold him out, sending him back through the field faster than Adrian Sutil running from a nightclub! Kimi finally rested in 14th after being so close to the lead.

A late charge promoted Webber past his team mate and into the Aussie's third 4th of the season, finishing behind the two Mclaren. Red Bull's 4th and 5th proved they haven't lost any race pace but qualifying is destroying their winning streak. Being consistent is the key in the early part of the season with Hamilton proving his three 3rd place finishes is enough to lead the championship going into the ill-fated Bahrain GP next weekend.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Great Aussie Free For All. Australian GP 2012

The Australian GP. Always the scrap of the season. Teams fight for dominance, hoping to be this year's break away story. Some want to be the underdog, while others fluff their feathers, showing they will be the alpha-team.

Mercedes, swaggered into the paddock with a self assured confidence, normally reserved for winners. Ross Brawn proclaimed loud enough for the world to hear, "Michael Schumacher was never gone, he just didn't have the equipment." Ross didn't know how right he was to be, as Michael retired with a failing car. His understudy, Nico, unable to get his tyres to work over the race distance, finished a distant 12th. Ross no doubt laid awake Sunday night in his room over-looking the Yarra, thinking about what should have been.

Renault, err, I mean, Lotus, pushed a familiar face in front of the cameras. It was F1's lost son, Kimi Raikkonen, in charge of ushering in a new Lotus, searching for former glory. As cool as his approach to life, Kimi failed at the first hurdle, qualifying just enough to sit at the children's table while his executive assistant, Romain Grosjean, was left to do all the work. Unable to play with others, Grosjean parked his car on the first lap with less tyres than he started with. Kimi was forced to make up for his partners lack of effort and finished his race in 7th. Happy for the points, Lotus rewarded Kimi with the ice-cream of his choice. He chose a local favourite, a Rainbow paddle-pop.

Sauber surprised everyone by finishing two cars in the top ten. We are all still surprised something so ugly can go so fast!

Despite Ferrari producing a car slower than the fast Sauber, world champ, Alonso, dragged his red speed bump to an amazing 5th in front of the two black and white Saubers! Massa, proving that Hungary '09 is still in his head, couldn't be bothered finishing the GP after a tussle with Senna.

At the pointy end, Red Bull were far from their dominating 2011 form. Qualifying 5th and 6th, a fast starting Vettel made up ground and was gifted the places he needed to finish second. First when Schumacher parked his unreliable Merc and then, through good fortune and a safety car, Vettel passed an angry Hamilton. Webber's cliché poor start meant he had it all to do. Finally through good fortune, Mark found 4th at the checkered flag. With favours and good fortune in short supply these days, Red Bull have much work to do before Sepang next Sunday.

Jenson Button claimed top step honours for the 3rd time in Australia. Powering into the first corner past a dumb-founded Lewis Hamilton, Jenson never looked like giving up the front spot. Even after a Petrov inspired restart, Jenson remained calm in the knowledge he has a fast car and a hot girlfriend. Despite having the most sane looking car on the grid, Lewis couldn't find the speed he needed to reward McLaren with a 1-2 finish. Unhappy with 3rd, Lewis returned to his trailer and whinged to his mum about the other kids not sharing.

The talk of Melbourne this weekend was Perth born Daniel Ricciardo waving the flag for Toro Rosso. Despite qualifying 10th, Daniel found himself driving under the Williams of Bruno Senna and limping into last place. An inspiring drive put him back behind his team mate going into the final lap. With others tripping over each other, Daniel found a way through, making the race for the last few points the most exciting of the race. With 4 corners left, Ricciardo moved 3 places and walked away from his 1st Australian GP with a courageous two points. His team mate, Jean-Eric Vergne, finished just out of the points, meaning he was required to report to his trailer where Dr Helmut Marko administered the compulsory Red Bull 12 lashes of failure.

Finally, Williams scared everyone by revealing a fast car. Teams held their breath watching as Williams declared it was back but fortunately, Frank William's outfit tripped spectacularly at the last hurdle, making a mess of Maldonado's car all over the back of the track. Yellow flags slowed but didn't stop the cars as they pushed the final lap.

The roadshow is on to Sepang, Malaysia, for the next round. The cars will be sizing each other up on Friday.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Daniel Ricciardo On Australian TV

Lame interview. Clearly Daniel never spoke to an AFL player, just used their equipment while home for the holidays. Still, always good to see Daniel on TV, even if it's a football show.