Monthly Archives: February 2010

Winter Dangers

Luge

Sport is dangerous. Every single sport poses danger to the competitor. Some see the effects greatly magnified. There is a chance that a player might break his leg in football, there is a chance a racing driver will be involved in a horrific crash, there is a chance that a ice hockey player will end up all blooded up after a fight. But what no one could ever come to terms with is death in sport.

The Winter Olympics is never usually associated with the danger. Nobody understands the sports enough to recognise the massive danger that the athletes face. An Inside Sport documentary earlier in the week first highlighted the danger of Alpine Skiing. The massive crashes after one little mistake is the difference between life and death. In 2001, Silvano Beltrametti was paralysed from the waist down after an horrific accident. Just two years ago, American Scott Macartney crashed five seconds from the finish line after losing balance from a jump, he was put into an induced coma but recovered. Whilst they survived, others did not.

But the danger is sadly not restricted to skiing, as it was shown by Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, on the day of the Opening Ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Approaching the finish line, Kumaritashvili lost control at the final turn going at 90mph, hitting a concrete pillar on the side of the track. Despite the best efforts of the medical team, he was pronounced dead at Whistler hospital later in the day.

It is tragic to think that he was only 21.

He had not been expected to win the luge medal. The odds for him winning were at best 69/5 on. But this was the opportunity to represent his country at the Olympics, to make everyone proud of what he did in the games. To do what many could only dream of, be an Olympian.

Nodar Kumaritashvili was only starting out on his career, the International Luge Federation only list one event in which he competed in. 55th in the 2008/2009 World Cup. But there was promise, Georgian officials mark him as ‘spirited’. This was someone who could definitely produce something in the future. It is always worse when it comes before the start of a good and promising career.

The Press Conference announcing the passing of Kumaritashvili was deeply emotional. The President of the IOC Jaques Rogge was visibly upset with what had happened. This is not what the Winter Olympics needed, not what anyone needed, to happen.

Questions have already been raised about the safety of the Whistler Sliding Centre. Speeds have been reported to be 15mph higher than on other circuits, the vertical drop being 28m greater than at other circuits. This was a track to test new limits of the luger, but have passed the boundary of safe speeds. There is a quote from Australian luger Hannah Campbell-Pegg that gives a good impression of the course:

“I think they are pushing it a little too much. To what extent are we just little lemmings that they just throw down a track and we’re crash-test dummies? I mean, this is our lives.”

The track is simply too dangerous for anyone to run on. The speeds are too high and safety must be paramount. It is good to watch athletes being challenged to show their true abilities. But there is no need for their lives to be put at risk during it. Before Kumaritashvili’s crash, several other lugers also had accidents. Alarmingly, the Romanian luger Violeta Stramaturaru was knocked unconscious for a few minutes after she crashed during a training session. It was almost inevitable something worse was going to happen.

But when there is little safety consideration on the outside of the track, the speeds are almost worthless. The use of concrete pillars just meters from the track simply astounds me. Kumaritashvili would have survived if there had been none. He may have been bruised around, but he would still be alive. There is no need for the aesthetics of the venue to compromise the safety of the athletes. There is no need for a roof at all.

There can be ways to improve the venue, the inclusion of nets to stop the impact with the concrete pillars. Or starting the course lower down, meaning the luge will not get to as high speeds, decreasing the chance of an accident.

All in all though we have to consider the tragic events of today. Full respect to the other Georgian athletes who will still take part in the Winter Olympics even after the death of their compatriot. I hope they do win a medal in Vancouver, it would be such an emotional moment for the team. It would be a fitting tribute.

RIP Nodar Kumaritashvili. 1988-2010.

Thursday Thoughts – F1 Dream Team

This weeks Thursday Thoughts was posted by Journeyer over on Sidepodcast.

If you were a team boss with 3 vacant seats (2 race seats and 1 test seat), who would you hire?

In all honesty, I run an online team, called ItalianEnglish Dynamics. Lets just say I had enough money to buy an entry into Formula 1. Here is who I’d go for in 2010. (Impressively, I’ve avoided some bias)

Driver #1 – Jarno Trulli: Come on then, who was surprised by this one? I bet a lot of you. Yes, incase you do believe it was a typo, that does say Jarno Trulli. One time race winner and long time seemingly average driver. But I want to look towards the future with my team, and with a good mix of experience and youth which I firmly believe in. Jarno Trulli has an excellent single lap pace and an awful lot of experience which will be passed on to the number 2 driver. He can put a good setup on the car and it will help my number 2. He is also not going to get into any trouble (unless Sutil is about) and there would not be any disharmony in the team.

Driver #2 – Paul di Resta : He is just too good not to be in a Formula 1 team. As I have shown before, his record is impressive and he is a rather quick driver. With two experienced drivers also in the team, he will learn a lot from what they can tell him about F1. Plus he shares my birthday, and if that isn’t a good enough reason, then I don’t know what is.

Test Driver – Marc Gene : You aren’t a Ferrari test driver for nothing. Experience is everything, as I’ve already stated. Feed into Paul di Resta. And if one of the two main drivers get injured, he is more than capable to replace them (he can’t be worse than Badoer, surely not). In 2003 he scored a points finish in Italy after Ralf Schumacher.

Living La Vida Loca

Valencia Testing: Day 3
F1 Testing in Valencia

I was struggling for something to talk about today. I want to talk about the dominance of Ferrari, but I feel we need to see what Red Bull do when they turn up. I want to talk about some of the teams, but again, I feel I might shoot myself in the foot once again (Toro Rosso ended up fourth today).

So, you can’t beat a good post about why Spain appears to be the nation of F1 testing.

Valenica, Jerez and Barcelona. All rather big locations in Spain. All of them are also hosting at least one F1 test this winter. Just Spain. Nowhere in Britain or France or anywhere that testing could take place.

And I don’t like it. Fair enough it is in one country, there is not a lot of effort or money required to transport from one venue to another. But why should Spain get the F1 testing exclusively? It isn’t fair on the Brits or the French.

Before you say it as well, don’t go ‘It is because it is nice and sunny’. It isn’t, tomorrow is set to feature quite a bit of rain. The temperature has been cool all week.

I want to see more venues taking place, I am aware of the cost cutting taken place by the FIA, less test sessions are used. But do tests really need to be of a high cost?

For some examples, I’ll take two quite different teams, Ferrari and Virgin Racing. Ferrari being the team that can spend anything they feel like, Virgin pretty much the polar opposite.

Ferrari will be able to go to anywhere in the world at anytime they want. Money is no obstacle for them. Lets say they are limited to just 15 days of testing, split into four weeks. In week 1 they could be in Bahrain (a decent test venue when it isn’t covered in sand), week 2 at Jerez, week 3 at Paul Ricard and week 4 at the home venue of Maranello.

Virgin on the other hand can’t afford to go to all those venues. They need to be more local to help with the money. Week 1 and 2 can be at Silverstone, before spending weeks 3 and 4 at Valencia. They can half the amount of money spent on transport and will inevitably help with cost cutting.

The FIA could do more to help. Help pay the teams towards testing, to encourage them to test and entertain the fans that attend (which must be said for the impressive attendance at Valencia). But certainly at least add more variety to help more fans get into F1.

Paul Ricard is the ultimate test venue, I would love to know why F1 isn’t going there for testing. So many different configurations means a team can test so many different set ups for the upcoming season. You probably don’t even need to move venues with Paul Ricard being so versatile.

Then there is also tracks such as Portimao in Portugal, or several tracks in Germany also up to standard for F1 testing.

I like Spain, really do. Lovely country (admittedly, I’ve only been once). But there needs to be much more variation in the F1 testing calendar. Spain is hogging the headlines and no fans in Britain or France or Italy are getting any sort of cheap fix to see F1 cars. (Yes, I know you can get to Barcelona using just £30 with Easyjet.) But there is no option to keep the passport in the pocket and pop on down to the local circuit.

And in relevant testing news, I think Red Bull are going to be stronger than expected this year.

Results

Pos  Driver        Team                       Time     Laps
 1.  Alonso        Ferrari              (B)   1:11.470  127
 2.  de la Rosa    BMW Sauber-Ferrari   (B)   1:12.094   80
 3.  M.Schumacher  Mercedes GP          (B)   1:12.438   82
 4.  Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari   (B)   1:12.576   97
 5.  Button        McLaren-Mercedes     (B)   1:12.951   82
 6.  Petrov        Renault              (B)   1:13.097   75
 7.  Hulkenberg    Williams-Cosworth    (B)   1:13.669  126

Rushed Out To Service

Valencia Testing: Day 2
F1 Testing in Valencia

At times they must feel like the forgotten team of the Formula 1 grid. Everyone remembers the front runners, even the midfield cars, and now with the new teams hogging the headlines as well, Toro Rosso have took a rather far away back seat.

The team launched their new 2010 car on Monday, on a day which many headlines were focused on Felipe Massa’s and Michael Schumacher’s return. But it was still a massively significant day for Toro Rosso, for the first time in the team’s short history they built their own cars. Red Bull Racing were no longer allowed to supply the chassis to Toro Rosso, the STR5 was born.

Which does come to a surprise that the STR5 debuted its car before sister team Red Bull’s RB6. So whilst Red Bull are applying the finishing touches, Toro Rosso are pacing around the Valencia circuit in the first Formula 1 test of the year.

But my main concern for the team is that it could have been a bit too early for them to show the car out to the world.

Felipe Massa once again set the fastest time of the day, a rather impressive 1:11.772, which is more likely to be down to a glory run, but it was still over two seconds quicker than Toro Rosso’s representative Sebastien Buemi.

Is the car slow? Or have they decided to put a bit more fuel in than the rest of the teams? I’m afraid it could be the former.

Yesterday, Buemi was again over two seconds slower to the time topper of Massa, but this time still managed to be ahead of Robert Kubica. However, the time of the Renault vastly improved today, the Toro Rosso did not.

“We still had some minor issues, but we were able to fix these. By the end of the day we have collected a lot of data to analyse, which will help us to get a better understanding of the new car.”

Sebastien Buemi

I’d love Toro Rosso too succeed, they are very much an underdog team now without the main support of Red Bull anymore. But this season, unless they do some rather major updates to the car, I can only see them back of the pack along with the new teams.

And once again being forgot in the world of F1.

Pos  Driver        Team                       Time     Laps
 1.  Massa         Ferrari              (B)   1:11.722  124
 2.  Kobayashi     BMW Sauber-Ferrari   (B)   1:12.056   96
 3.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes     (B)   1:12.256  108
 4.  Kubica        Renault              (B)   1:12.426  119
 5.  Rosberg       Mercedes GP          (B)   1:12.899  119
 6.  Barrichello   Williams-Cosworth    (B)   1:13.377  102
 7.  Buemi         Toro Rosso-Ferrari   (B)   1:13.823  107

Impressing in Valencia

Valencia Testing: Day 1
F1 Testing in Valencia

Valencia looks lovely this time of year. Clear skies, a small breeze, not too hot. And you can’t complain with eight cars flying around the Ricardo Tomo circuit on the outskirts of Valencia either.

Is it too early to look at the times? Yes it is. I found out that last year by believing Brawn GP were doing glory runs with low fuel and thinking the pace wasn’t genuine. My judgement hasn’t been as badly bruised since.

But, I feel compelled to write about Pedro de la Rosa, returning F1 driver, along with Michael Schumacher, in his white Sauber. I know a lot of doubters who thought he was the wrong choice for the team, that Nick Heidfeld should be there instead. Whilst not totally disagreeing with the doubters, I stood by Pedro de la Rosa and always will when he is in a Sauber car. The same goes for Kamui Kobayashi or whoever else joins the team.

If you are unaware of the testing times, Pedro de la Rosa finished second, with the third most laps completed on the day. His time of 1:12.784 was faster than both Mercedes drivers (Schumacher and Rosberg) as well as others including Barrichello and Kubica, both drivers who have been predicted to finish ahead of him in 2010.

I know I have said it is too early to judge anyone in a F1 car, but at this early stage in testing, it shows that de la Rosa still has it in him to keep up with the younger drivers (and Schumacher). It is impossible to judge where the team are at regarding which driver is better until after Kobayashi has driven.

Of course, de la Rosa is a well known test driver, and this of course is a test session. It will be important to transfer the promising early results to the actual races. Something which I am confident he will do.

So, doubters of de la Rosa. Is he still not good enough for Formula 1? Is he really going to be the new Luca Badoer? Based on one solid looking result, I think not

Timings

 1.  Massa         Ferrari              (B)  1:12.574  102              
 2.  de la Rosa    BMW Sauber-Ferrari   (B)  1:12.784   74                
 3.  M.Schumacher  Mercedes GP          (B)  1:12.947   40                
 4.  Rosberg       Mercedes GP          (B)  1:13.543   39                
 5.  Paffett       McLaren-Mercedes     (B)  1:13.846   86                
 6.  Barrichello   Williams-Cosworth    (B)  1:14.449   75                
 7.  Buemi         Toro Rosso-Ferrari   (B)  1:14.762   18                
 8.  Kubica        Renault              (B)  1:15.000   69    

Testing Times

F1 Testing in Valencia

The teams have started to fire up the engines after a cold winter, as the start of the F1 season looms ever closer. Four tests in Spain are scheduled to come through February and the Northern Waffler plans to cover every single day of it.

Each day is planned to arrive with a new insight and different thoughts which have occurred to me during the results or the action or whatever in general. As far as I’m aware, this is the first time someone has done this, as I’m sure nobody has managed to bore themselves with the details.

This is also a bit of a personal project, as you may have noticed, the blog is very irregular in its posting, although it has become more frequent recently. Basically I am doing all this to see if I’m able to do frequent blog posts. It also seems as a challenge, and I certainly want to have a new challenge.

So, if you have any thoughts about what I’m doing or if you think I’m crazy, just say in the comments, all feedback will be considered.

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