I have been a little out of things for a while now. It turns out that maintaining a blog while attempting to complete your final year of an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering is a tad harder than I thought it would be at the beginning of the year. However, my metaphorical plate is now clear and I am once again able to put in the work that you, the readers of 1 True Formula, deserve.
The return of 1 True Formula is going to be bolstered by a momentous event in my own life. This weekend I will be making the trip to Abu Dhabi to watch the race at the Yas Marina Circuit. It will be my first experience of Formula 1 in the flesh and blood. If ever my passion for Formula 1 was in need of reaffirmation (which it certainly isn’t) this would be the perfect way to do it. I jet off tomorrow evening for what is sure to be an unforgettable trip. It is an experience that I have been yearning for since I first heard the roar of an F1 engine blaring from the TV in the living room and I still can’t quite believe that I am going to experience it first-hand.
It will not be my first trip to the Yas Marina Circuit. Just over a year ago I went on a trip with my family that included a brief stay in the Yas Hotel that straddles the circuit. The hotel was magical and my view of the track from the bedroom window was the closest I had ever been to an F1 circuit. There is a certain sense of fate that I will witness my first race at the same place. For more information on the Yas Marina Circuit head over to the Etihad Airways website which features a nifty tool to explore the circuit.
Now, I am going be going full first-timer while I am over there. I will be armed with my camera to snap shots of the stars and tycoons, drivers and engineers. I will have my handy marker in my back pocket for every autograph opportunity that rears its head. However, you can rest assured that should Mr. Ecclestone bump into me in the grandstand, I will be sure to ply him with hard-edged, cut-to-the-chase questions about the future of Formula 1 and the secrets of immortality.
So, the next time you hear from me I will be a changed man. I will have experienced the thrill of Formula 1 firsthand. My eardrums will have been pounded by the thrumming of 24 V8 engines at 18000 rpm. I will see you on the other side.
After crossing the line as victor of the Silverstone Grand Prix in 2010, Mark Webber was heard saying over the radio, “Not bad for a number two driver”. Webber’s snide comment may have been linked to the suspected favouritism for his team mate, Sebastian Vettel, by his Red Bull team during the 2010 World Championship. Whether there was favouritism or not has been a hot topic of discussion and is certainly not limited to the Red Bull Racing team; who can forget the famous, “Fernando is faster than you”, incident? What is not up for discussion, however, is Mark’s developing fondness for the number 2.
We have now got a second double-winner of this phenomenal 2012 season, his name is Mark Webber. Monaco was the setting for Mark’s first victory of the season; a race he controlled from start to chequered flag. The victory is also his second at Silverstone, the first being the aforementioned, slightly controversial, 2010 edition. The 25 points that Mark received for winning the race secure his position at number 2 in the Championship, 13 points behind the man who finished second this weekend, Fernando Alonso. In an uncanny coincidence, Alonso is the only other person to have won 2 races this year, his first victory coming in the second Grand Prix of the year. I’m telling you, this is spooky.
As we move on to Hockenheim in 2 weeks time Mark will be looking to win his second German Grand Prix. Mark won the 2009 German Grand Prix which was held at the Nurburgring which means that Hockenheimring could be the second German track the Aussie wins at. Once the race in Germany is completed we will be exactly halfway through the 2012 season and I’m sure Mark would like nothing more than to be higher than 2nd place in the World Championship going into the second half of the season.
Believe it or not, there was more going on this weekend besides the Formula 1 (I know, I was shocked too). The observant amongst you will have seen that Scotland’s Andy Murray came second in Wimbledon on Sunday, losing out to Switzerland’s Roger Federer who moves above 2nd placed Novak Djokovic in the ATP World Rankings. Many in the UK would have been hoping for double victory for the British this weekend, but alas, neither Murray nor the pair of McLaren drivers could come up with the goods. No doubt Her Majesty (the second British Monarch to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee) would have been stifling cheers while watching Hamilton fighting tooth-and-nail on track with Alonso.
Whether you are superstitious or not, you can’t argue with the numbers. The mystifying connection between Mark Webber and the number 2 seems likely to continue unabated. Don’t forget that he has been driving around in the number 2 marked RB8 this whole year and will continue to do so. He will persist in applying pressure to Championship leader Fernando Alonso, and will throw everything he’s got into becoming Formula 1 World Champion for the first time. As the rain clears after Silverstone, perhaps it’s time for number 2 to become number 1…
There are two types of people in this world: those who like BMW’s and those who like Mercedes-Benz. I have always considered myself to be part of the latter group; the more cultured, sophisticated and classy of the two. This preference of mine began as a small boy. My family has always owned one Mercedes or another, always replacing a worn out, worse-for-wear Merc with a new one, seemingly without even considering a BM or one of the other German competitors. By the time I was old enough to have a personal opinion on cars I did not see a reason to change this imprinted bias of mine. I have always believed Mercs to be better looking than their compatriots and have argued this point to the bitter end with those who disagree. I would point out the sleek lines that grace the large saloons and the innovation that always appears on the new S-class. As a last resort, if I was faced with a particularly zealous opponent I would whip out the SLR card. No one could ever argue that the Mclaren-Mercedes SLR isn’t more beautiful and impressive than any BMW in existence. Nine arguments out of ten I would be victorious. The unfortunate person who had the courage to try and tell me that BMW or Audi were better than Mercedes would be left with tears in their eyes and a 3-pointed star imprint on their pride. However, that was not always the case. My resolute defence of the Benz brand had a gaping hole in it that I would pray my opponent would not pick up on. That hole, that weak link, that Achilles heel…was the A-Class.
The A-Class has long been the skid-mark on the pristine white pants of Mercedes-Benz. Looking like the bizarre combination of a doorstop and a half-eaten loaf of bread, it is the car that does not get invited to the beauty contests. Other cars shun it in the car park for fear of becoming ugly by association. I wouldn’t be surprised if it has never been invited to a birthday party. One can compare the A-Class to the Hunchback of Notredame except that unlike Quasimodo, he will never save the day or get the girl. When I pull up at a traffic light next to an A-Class I give the unfortunate driver a look of pity because if they aren’t blind then they must be part of some hideous nightmare where they are forced by an evil villain to drive around all day in the A-Class, a fate worse than eternal damnation. If my opponent in the BMW/Mercedes argument brought up the A-Class I would simply turn around and walk away, unable to face the shame of trying to defend it. I would be unable to show my face in public for at least 5 minutes as the tears subsided and I regained the confidence to face the world. Thankfully, that is about to change.
Somebody at Mercedes finally developed some sense. Either that or they have only just realised that they have unwittingly been manufacturing and selling the grotesque A-Class for the last 5 years when it was clearly only meant to be a prank played by the design team on the first of April. Whatever the reason, Quasimodo of the car world shall be with us no more. He is being replaced by Cameron Diaz. Yes, it’s true, the A-Class has become beautiful and cool. In a dramatic redesign, clearly aimed at eating into the dominance of the compact car market by the BMW 1-series, the new A-Class looks up to the task. It is sleek and graceful with curves that will make a man’s jaw drop as it passes by. The front end is styled in the fashion of the iconic SLS, a sight that has been known to cause grown women wet their pants. No longer will I look at the driver of this car with pity. My face will now be a mix of admiration and jealousy as I picture myself behind the wheel, with the backseat taken up by the beautiful women who will inevitably be drawn to the grace and good looks of the car (if not the driver). I am truly happy that Mercedes have fixed this slight on their historic mark. The A has finally found some class.
Why do we love it? That was the question I asked in an article written on Thursday. Today’s race in Valencia provided a categorical answer to that question. I am going to shift from protocol in this article which would normally feature a review of the day’s racing. No matter how eloquently I write, I simply could not do the justice to the spectacle we witnessed in Valencia today. If you were unfortunate enough to miss out on the Valencia Grand Prix I strongly suggest that you find out when it is being replayed on your TV and ensure that you watch it. If that is not possible you will have to wait until the DVD is released, or the feature-film appears on the silver screen, as it undoubtedly will.
Today we were treated to a day of racing that has never before been seen in Valencia. This has been the theme of the 2012 season, everything that we thought we could count on in Formula 1; the dominance of Redbull, the lack of overtaking on street circuits, the largely predictable race outcomes and the monotony of the European Grand Prix in Valencia, has been turned upside down. We have had 7 different winners in 8 races, with the first double victor coming in Valencia today. We have seen the Championship lead change hands more frequently than a dollar bill. We have seen the return of Kimi Raikkonen to Formula 1 racing and Michael Schumacher’s long-awaited return to the podium. Caterham have demonstrated their ability to fight it out amongst the midfield teams and Vettel proved in Valencia today that without reliability, having the fastest car on the circuit means nothing at all.
The next time I get asked why I am so passionate about Formula 1 I will invite them over to my flat for an afternoon and play them a recording of this year’s Valencia Grand Prix. It will be impossible for them to say with any conviction, after watching this race, that Formula 1 is boring. Even the most stubborn of my friends will be hard pressed to point out more than 20 minutes of today’s race that did not have us perched on the edges of our seats, holding our breath as during the attempted overtakes, revelling in the successful ones and grimacing at the not-so-successful. There will undoubtedly be some new converts who, after seeing today’s race, will find themselves tuning-in to the race in Silverstone on the 8th of July full of anticipation for another rip-roarer!
The 2012 Valencia Grand Prix will surely be nominated for an Academy Award in 2013. A better story could not have been scripted by a Hollywood screenwriter. The race was full of intrigue and action. There were heroes and villains worthy of a tear-jerking, Oscar winning drama. Even after the chequered flag fell on Alonso’s emotional victory, the narrative continued to play out. Rumours circulated of podium finishers losing their spots and post-race penalties were dished out to the day’s antagonists. Valencia, uncharacteristically, served up 57 laps of wall-to-wall action. There were tears and there were cheers, there were thrills and spills and one extremely happy Spaniard savouring the glory of winning a home Grand Prix. If you needed a reason to reaffirm your passion for F1 then you need not look any further than Valencia 2012. This is why we love F1…!
Is it the rumble of the engines as they sit on the starting grid? Is it the fierce rivalry that exists between the men who sit in the cockpits? Maybe it is the rich history of Grand Prix racing, going back over 60 years? It could be the memories of the iconic circuits that have held Formula 1 races and the breathtaking layouts of the modern era? 20 Sundays of the year millions of people around the world settle down in front of their televisions or radios to watch, or listen to, 24 of the most sophisticated vehicles in the world wind their way around a strip of tarmac for 2 hours. We follow the development of our favourite teams and drivers as they strive for the championship. We proudly don our Ferrari jackets or Mclaren peak caps to display our allegiance. Why do we do it? Why do we shake our fists when our chosen driver gets cut off by another and cheer when he sticks an overtake? Why do we love Formula 1?
It is hard to pinpoint when I became so passionate about F1 and why. I can remember, as a young boy, when the sound of V12 engines would fill the house as my dad watched the race after a Sunday braai (barbecue for the non-South Africans among you). I would watch for a while, sitting next to my dad on the couch, enjoying the sounds and marvelling at the speed of the cars. However, I would soon lose interest and rush off to complete my latest Lego creation or jump into the swimming pool. The names of Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost and Nigel Mansell meant as much to me as the political situation in Switzerland.
As I grew so did my interest in Formula 1. I now found myself joining my dad in front of the tv, listening to the “Go, go, go, go!” of Murray Walker as the cars set off and watching the glory years of Michael Schumacher’s reign as champion. It was at this time that I became a Ferrari supporter. The allure of the red paint and Prancing Horse symbol, driven by the greatest driver of his era was enough to capture the heart of any 11-year-old and I have considered myself a “Tifosi” ever since. Even with this new-found interest and allegiance to a team I would still not have considered myself a true, passionate F1 fan. I was only watching races when they happened to be on tv and couldn’t name half of the drivers on the grid. It would be a few more years before the bug truly bit.
It was in my latter years of high school that my enthusiasm and interest for Formula 1 escalated. I now found myself making an effort to watch as many races as I could. I was keeping track of the driver’s standings and paying attention to the designs of the cars and strategies of the teams on race weekend. As Kimi Raikkonen clinched the title from the exciting young Brit, Lewis Hamilton my enthusiasm turned into full-blown passion. My devotion to the sport and interest in the inner workings of the incredible machines led me to the decision to study mechanical engineering at university.
Now, as I approach the end of my undergraduate career, I border on obsessive and am proud to say so. I love Formula 1 and all that it entails. I love the precision engineering of the engine and the cacophonous sound that it produces at 18 000 revolutions per minute. The unquestionable skill of the drivers as they hurtle past advertising boards and come within millimetres of slamming into the wall. I love the devotion of the fans, the millions of people all across the world who wave their flags in the stands and scream their throats raw in the belief that their cry is going to get their driver that extra split second. I love the sense of anticipation and excitement that I feel as the lights go out on yet another race weekend. It is for these and countless other reasons that I love Formula 1…why do you?
First we had one winner. Then we had two. China made it three in fantastic style. The fourth winner came in Bahrain and eyebrows began to rise. Barcelona gave us a fifth winner and we knew that this was going to be a special season. When Webber made it six from six in Monaco, making the 2012 season the most unpredictable in history, I thought it could not go on. Surely Montreal would give us a repeat winner? Of course Vettel would convert his pole position into victory and become the first double winner of 2012? Or maybe Alonso, in the reinvigorated Ferrari, would leave the field in his wake and claim his second victory of the season. But, it was not to be. In yet another brilliant race, with a nail-biting last few laps, Lewis Hamilton sailed to the top of the podium, and the championship, becoming the unprecedented seventh winner in seven races.
The Canadian Grand Prix began without incident. All of the cars got off the start and the order remained relatively unchanged for the first few laps. I was a little bit worried that the race was becoming a bit of a procession. Vettel seemed to be in absolute control at the front of the field and, with no chance of rain, it didn’t seem like anything would upset the apple cart. There was no need to worry though, Pirelli came to the rescue. The Pirelli tyres, which have been the defining issue in the strategies of the teams the entire season, once again proved to be instrumental to the excitement and the outcome of the Grand Prix.
After 15 laps the pit stops began and the race started to heat up. Vettel pitted and Hamilton took the lead until his turn for fresh rubber brought him into the pits. Alonso grabbed the metaphorical bull by the horns and produced some blistering laps to ensure that when his turn to pit came he returned to the track ahead of Hamilton and in the lead. Hamilton made a second pit stop which saw him coming out in 3rd place, behind both Alonso and Vettel. This is where things really became interesting. Vettel and Alonso, in an all-or-nothing bid for the win, decided to skip a second pit stop, the logic being that if they could somehow make their tyres last to the end of the race they had a chance of walking away with victory. It was a brave decision by both teams, but ultimately the wrong one.
The severe drop-off in performance of the Pirelli tyres, demonstrated so emphatically by Kimi Raikkonen in China, meant that in the last few laps of the Grand Prix Hamilton simply had to stroll past both Vettel and Alonso as they slipped and skated around the circuit on tyres well past their use-by date. In clear admittance of their error, Red Bull brought Vettel in for new tyres with just 5 laps remaining, worried that he could end up very far down the table. Alonso took his chances and stayed, but was ultimately passed by Grosjean, who seemed stunned to finish in 2nd place, and Sergio Perez who rounded out the Podium.
As we head back to Europe I’m starting to believe that we might just have a different winner every race of this season. Surely Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen, in their very competitive Lotus, will fancy their chances of becoming the 8th and 9th winners of 2012 in Valencia and Britain? Michael Schumacher must believe that he could become the 10th winner when he races in his home Grand Prix in Hockenheim? The way this 2012 season is going, I will only be slightly surprised if a tornado sweeps across the track in Budapest, sweeps away 22 of the cars, and HRT coast across the finish line to claim their first Grand Prix victory! It would only be marginally more unbelievable than the start we have had to this 2012 season.