F1 magic at Kuala Lumpar 2011

Posted in Transport on April 10, 2011 by Apollo

I have tried to think of Fernando Alonso as something other than a creep since his action of 2007, where he was clearly prepared to do (just about) anything to get the F1 driver’s championship away from Lewis Hamilton, and didn’t care about who he burned along the way.

It’s a waste of time, as he has shown over the years that’s he’s just a creep, and if he was standing behind me, I’d be checking my pants.

The Malaysian race was a lovely case of ‘poetic justice’ when he tried to put Hamilton out once again, and make it look ‘accidental’.

Instead of trashing Hamilton’s rear tyre by swiping it with his nose as he pulled out ‘late’ to make a pass, he only succeeded in breaking his own front wing.

He couldn’t carry on without stopping for a new nose cone, ultimately throwing him down the places.

The only down side was that Hamilton’s tyres and performance were never going to last the pace as their strategy was just not going to work, and although his rear survived the blatant attack, there was no way he would be able to capitalise on Alonso’s… error of judgement.

Abu Dhabi F1 2010 – not so bad

Posted in Transport with tags , on November 14, 2010 by Apollo

I have to admit that I wasn’t really looking forward to the last F1 race of 2010 – most of the run up towards it had seemed to suggest that Fernando Alonso was going to be handed the driver’s championship because all the other contenders seemed to be having brain-failure, poor team management, or just down bad luck when they didn’t need it.

Somehow, Alonso seemed to have left all these negative aspects somewhere behind him in the latter part of the series.

However, the last race at Abu Dhabi turned out to be a joy to watch, as Alonso got what the deserved as payback for all the questionable things I think he has been involved in since he did for McLaren team and Lewis Hamilton in the past. I thought he was a creep then (as if any of the other teams etc weren’t doing similar, but there wasn’t action taken across the board), and although I’ve tried not to think the same ever since, his actions, and his team in support of him with various complaints and appeals against the competition, haven’t really done anything to make me think the best position to assume when near him is with my back safely jammed firmly against the nearest wall – harder to have a knife stuck in it.

Watching him stuck behind a yellow car (down in 11th, Alonso was leading Webber but could not get past Renault’s Vitaly Petrov) for a large part of the race, and unable to produce the performance or skill to pass it – or manufacture some scenario to justify ramming it off the road – made the race a damned good watch, and even his behaviour at the end, with session of fist-waving at Petrov, just confirmed my opinion of Alonso as a creep – probably even more so when he tried to laugh off his natural reaction when interviewed about his behaviour by the BBC just after the race.

Well, we can only hope 2011 goes as well for him as 2010 – and that he gets to think he has won all the way to the last race – only to have it snatched away again.

Maybe he’ll treat us to an on-screen implosion.

20,000 rpm not in F1

Posted in Noteworthy, Tech, Transport with tags , , on November 9, 2009 by Apollo

While it seems a bit silly for a business that sees fines of over £100 million as little more than petty cash or small change to speak of “cost saving measures”, F1 development rules still means that achievements are made that we may be cheated of seeing.

I had anticipated seeing engines running to 20,000 rpm in the 2009 season, but the rules outlawed this figure, and capped them at 19,000 rpm in the name of economy.

However, as anyone with an ounce of engineering knowledge will realise, to run reliably at 19 k, you have to be able to perform unreliably at higher numbers, and 20 k is only some 5% more in terms of revs, although that same engineering knowledge will also tell that the energy involved will increase by something more like 10%, and that doesn’t merit the same use of the word “only” that 5% merits.

In a 4-stroke engine this is particularly significant, since it means the reciprocating parts – in particular the pistons – also carry that amount of additional energy, and the con-rods have to haul them to a full stop and reverse their direction 333 times every second, or every 3 ms. These really are speed and energies you wouldn’t want to be too close to when a rod lets go, and the pistons decide to leave the engine.

With that in mind, I was intrigued to see a Cosworth engine test at 20 k, although it may be significant to note that the test was not maintained once 20 k had been reached, but was terminated almost as soon as the figure was achieved.

Piston engines can go much faster, but not as car-sized V8 or V10 designs. These engines are tiny by comparison and can be found in models, and turn at ridiculus speeds by comparison, many times that of their larger brothers, but then again, they are very, very much lighter, but can still be built of exotic materials – they use so much less!

Supercars on show

Posted in Noteworthy, Tech, Transport with tags on November 7, 2009 by Apollo

Cartoon sports carToo far for me to go and have a look, those nice people at the BBC did a little report about some fast car on show…

It’s a pity they had to go some way towards wasting it, and let someone that thinks an over-loud raucous musical soundtrack was obligatory, had to accompany it get their way – mistake.

Vodpod videos no longer available.


It’s funny how the arrival of the Veyron a few years ago, lifting the production car top speed to a demonstrable 407 kph (253 mph), has spawned so many challengers, and this report included a British candidate, which has a claim of 261 mph for the title of Fastest Production car.

I always wonder how practical these later challengers are. The Veyron story has been told in some detail, and the power/heat/tyre hurdles are significant, as are the reliability aspects.

Are these later claimants to the title able to do their speed runs with little or no special preparation, and then just carry on driving on the road as normal, as the Veyron has demonstrated it can, or are they highly strung special, in need of fettling before and during their high speed runs, and not really in any condition to carry on driving on the road afterwards?

The other thought that occurs to me relates to the ultimate capability of the Veyron. As noted, we know what’s in it, and the exotic technology that supports it and it 16-cylinder quad turbocharged engine.

Would it be so hard to wind it up a little more and add another 10 mph or so, or turn one into a record maker one day?

Hungary F1 2009 – Sweet and Sour

Posted in Transport with tags , on July 26, 2009 by Apollo

PheasantThis weekend’s Hungarian race proved to be something of a mixed bag, and disturbing coincidences.

Felipe Massa

The sour part is, of course, the unfortunate accident which Felipe Mass suffered during Saturday’s qualifying session, just six days after a fatal accident at Brands Hatch involving Henry Surtees, son of 1964 Formula One champion John Surtees, when he was struck on the head by a wheel which had come off another car.

Massa suffered a cut to his forehead, damage to the bone of his skull and concussion after being struck by a coil spring weighing about 1 kilogramme, part of the suspension which had broken off from Rubens Barrichello’s Brawn car. Although Massa remained conscious and was able to apply his brakes, he ploughed straight through the next corner and into a tyre wall at high speed, where he remained motionless for a time. The accident occurred during second qualifying, and was the sort of incident that would be almost impossible to organise deliberately. Massa happened to come down the road at the exact moment a solid object was occupying the same piece of space as his head, and helmet. The blow was enough to destroy the visor and cause a deep gash above his left eyebrow, and later revealed to have caused two fractures to his skull.

As we write, we know that Felipe is in a serious but stable condition in hospital following an operation, and is being kept in an induced coma for the following 48 hours. He is woken at intervals to determine his condition, and CT scans are also being taken, with the doctors reporting that his condition is life-threatening, but that his progress is following surgery is satisfactory.

Understandably, there have been some calls to improve driver safety, and these two incidents indicate that there is never any case for complacency regarding this aspect, but as some of the drivers have already noted, the circumstances were extremely unusual, and some solutions could potentially introduce greater hazards than these events have highlighted. However, if nothing else, F1 always seems to be able to provide significant incremental improvements to just about anything that needs it, so there is bound to be scope for improving safety in this, and no doubt, other areas.

As a further coincidence, I happened to look in on one of those programmes that follows the various emergency services on the road, and reports on the various incidents they come across. This one included a third, very similar event. In this case, a motorcyclist was involved, and he had been unfortunate enough to try and occupy the same piece of space as a pheasant that flew across his path, on a 60 mph road – no-one else was involved, but nearby farm workers witnessed the incident as it happened. The rider had no chance as the bird arrived from the side and flew straight into his helmet, meaning the impact speed was at least 60 mph. Although not knocked unconscious, the rider was blinded as the bird virtually exploded as it hit the area of his visor. Unable to see for the remains, he deliberately steered to left – reasoning that meeting a car travelling at 60 mph the other way would not be a good idea – onto the grassy verge, and into a deep ditch, just missing the only tree for some distance around. In some ways he was fortunate, his injuries amounted to a broken nose and cheekbone, and could have been much more serious.



Turning to the race in Hungary itself, it was particularly sweet to watch, and more interesting than the past couple of meeting, which left me without anything to think about, and bother to write a few notes later.

I just can’t get over my loathing of Alonso. Ever since he resorted to whatever dirty tricks he could think of to ensure that he could get any advantage he could over Hamilton a few years ago – regardless of who he took down and ruined along the way – I just can’t stop thinking of him as nothing more than a creep, and someone I’d never want as a team mate, or dare to turn my back on.

The high point of the Hungarian race had to be the coming together of Hamilton’s team, and the achievement of what seemed to be a return to form and an easy win, but one win could still just be a fluke, and we’ll have to wait for the end of the forthcoming four week break before we see if this is a definite change.

The higher point was the sabotage of Alonso’s car by the wheelman during a pit stop, when he failed to locate the brake duct spinner correctly, leading to it flapping loose as Alonso tried to make his way around the track after the stop, but unable to return to the pits before the spinner took its name literally, and spun in the wind. This led to firstly to the loss of the wheel nut, to be followed shortly by the loss of wheel, and Alonso’s limp back to the pits with only “three wheels on his waggon”. Although the crew stuck another wheel on the limping car, Alonso got his dues, and had to retire after completing  only a few more laps.

Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

This was made all the sweeter by the fact that he had been chasing Hamilton prior to his crews’ sabotage, and got to watch his former team mate and rival speed off into the distance ahead of him – and he couldn’t do a thing about it as both Hamilton, and his points for second place disappeared.

Given the other events of the weekend, and the fact that a loose wheel is no longer connected to the car by the restraining straps that keep the wheel on the car as long as it is still on the hub, it is also fortunate that the loose wheel bounced and rolled away harmlessly into the distance.

VW looks like winnng over Porsche

Posted in Transport with tags , , , on July 23, 2009 by Apollo

The story of VW and Porsche buying one another looks as if it is finally going to come to a conclusion – with VW taking over Porsche.

This has been rumbling on and off for some time, but it was all too complicated and political to try and write about. There were tales of a fued between the families behind the two companies, and there was the political side of things, with the presence of laws regarding ownership. While I might have been interested, digging into that sort of stuff and getting it right it too much like work, and not fun. Better to leave it to the journalists and professional writers who have access to better sources of info than the likes of me – and have to get it right, or be fired.

The most interesting aspect seems to have been the effect of the recession on the Porsche campaign to take over VW, and it seems to have rendered moot the legal aspect of ownership which may have influenced, or even negated Porsche’s efforts. Even though Porsche built up a 51% holding in the company, it’s efforts to build that up to a 75% stake were trashed by the financial crisis and the slump in the global automotive sector, which eventually gave the the sports car maker huge debts instead of a large stake in VW

The aim now seems to be to end the deal with VW owning Porsche, but leaving the company with its independence, a process which will achieved in gradual steps, and see completion before the fourth quarter of 2011. This would see Porsche effectively becoming the 10th brand under the VW umbrella. Porsche said it would increase its capital by at least 5 billion euros (£4.3 billion; $7.10 billion).

While this might have been a reason for dismay a few years ago, it’s probably not the tale of woe that purists might have (and maybe still will) portray it as. VW has marques such as Bugati, Lamborghini, and Audi (which it has done wonderful things with eg R8 and R10, and the recent TTRS). Those three marques have survived, and have models that are head and shoulders above their predecessors. Again, some purists just carp about the use of the odd switch from the parts bin, but in the real world, using those parts probably saved the cars concerned, and avoided some delay while a bespoke part was designed and tooled for.

Provided they do as per their publicity, and Porsche is allowed to retain its independence, but is able to draw on VW’s resources, things should be better in the future, and we get Porsche’s that are not only good at being road and track cars, but see the motoring journalists’ jibes regarding trim and suchlike come to a silent end.

Fingers crossed.

BT dumps Phorm

Posted in Venting with tags , on July 6, 2009 by Apollo

Insidious online snooper Phorm has been ditched by former key player BT.

BT may have made some mistakes in the past, but this at least is one of the company’s better decisions.

The controversial Phorm system tracks users using DPI (deep packet inspection) to analyse their viewed content and habits, and target them with relevant advertising on subsequent pages.

BT carried out secret test using the system in 2006 and 2007, but without customer’s consent, and this is now being investigated by the European Commission which considers the UK government failed to protect its citizens online.

BT, which received complaints from its customers about Phorm, said the decision reflected its need to conserve resources as it prepares to invest £1.5 billion in its plans to provide a next-generation, super-fast broadband network for 10 million homes by 2012. Privately, BT bosses have become increasingly concerned about consumer resistance to advertising based on monitoring their online behaviour, and specifically about the backlash against Phorm.

The two remaining players, Virgin Media and Talk Talk still control about 75% of the UK broadband market: Virgin Media is reported to still be interested, due to the services it offers, but is now less enthusiastic with regard to to Phorm as its reputation slips; and Talk Talk is reported to have stated that it is watching, but would only implement the system on an opt-in basis, but has stated it has no time-scale in place for deployment.

One of the nastier aspects of the original Phorm system is that it was configured as an opt-out service, in other word, you were automatically rolled into it whether on not you wanted to be, and had to deliberately register your desire not to be tracked and targeted by the system.

Losing BT, its original partner in crime, and provider of secret tests carried out on unsuspecting BT customers, is a significant event, and Phorm is burning significant finds without making returns. If the backlash continues, then even though it is winning funds on the basis of future advertising returns, continuing delays and the unpopularity of being associated with the brand must just see it go belly up before it can make a profit and sustain itself.