Wednesday, 31 August 2011

For Sure, F1 Interviews Have A Lot Of Phrases, Obviously

Ok so I'm a massive nerd as regular readers (and friends who I've forced to look at this blog) will know. As part of my nerdiness, I tend to notice really stupid things and one of these stupid things relates to F1 and its staff. Towards the end of 2009, I noticed that drivers and officials in F1 would say 'For Sure' a heck of a lot - to the point where it became distracting during the course of a weekend. Being a nerd, I decided to look into this further for the 2010 season, and I kept a 'For Sure' count on Microsoft Word. Basically, I would note down the name of the person (driver, team boss, engineer, presenter, whatever), count how many times they said 'For Sure' in a single interview and then produce a total at the end of a race weekend. Every practice session, qualifying session and race was covered, and every instance of 'For Sure' was counted. Yeah, nerd.

At the end of the year, I looked back at the totals for each race weekend for each person and added all of these together. In doing so, I was able to find out who stuck to the typical interview phrase the most. Lee McKenzie once stated that the worst offender for 'For Sure' was Jenson Button. However, my detective work (and frankly, lack of anything better to do) quashed this idea. As a result, I can announce that the person who is clearly obsessed with the phrase 'For Sure' and as such is now the 'For Sure Champion 2010' is Ferrari man, Stefano Domenicali! Well done to him! Since conducting 2010's investigation of 'For Sure' usage, I've only ever referred to Domenicali as Stefano 'For Sure' Domenicali!

With this pointless competition over in 2010, I had to continue the pointlessness in 2011. However, I noticed that this time round drivers have added a new phrase to their interview techniques. The phrase? 'Obviously'. I hate this more than 'For Sure'. Why? Well, if it's obvious, why are you saying it?! Nevertheless, I endeavoured to count the instance of 'Obviously' alongside its brother 'For Sure'. This year I'm also counting team efforts in interview styles. Obviously, the result is ongoing and for sure we won't know the winner until the end of the season finale, however if you're betting people and want a tip, I'd back Red Bull for the 'Obviously' count. A certain Australian who celebrated his 35th birthday recently is way ahead... Approaching the 100 'Obviously' milestone... I will obviously announce the winner of this pointless, nerdy competition at the end of the year. Who knows, Red Bull might be celebrating more than a driver's and constructor's championship in 2011...

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The Summer's Over. The Battle Has Resumed. Oh Yes!

Did we all have a lovely summer break? Yes? Wonderful! Or were you like me, and desperate for the F1 to come back off of its holidays? Yes? Excellent! Either way, you have to say it's good to be back, and it feels good to dust off the old blog.

So this weekend just gone saw the Spa Grand Prix - one of the most iconic races on the calendar. There was the usual talk around the paddock over the weekend, and there were questions about Red Bull's performance after their lack of wins at the previous races. Would McLaren and Ferrari overtake them? Has Sebastian Vettel finally cracked? Will Mark Webber say 'to hell with this' and leave at the end of the season? Well, no. None of these things happened and Belgium just proved what a strong team Red Bull are.

The Friday practice sessions were very wet, and we didn't see a whole lot of action there. What was lovely to see was the return of Bruno Senna to F1. He took over from Nick Heidfeld, and is set to race once again in Monza, and possibly for the rest of the season. However, it has to be noted that a lawsuit is currently in progress as Heidfeld is technically locked into the contract until the end of 2011. Whether this lawsuit is successful is another matter of course. What wasn't so good was that Ayrton Senna's nephew got caught out in the tricky conditions and stuck the Lotus Renault into the barriers. At least Senna can be comforted by the fact that Paul Di Resta did exactly the same thing, and that both cars were repaired before qualifying.

After wet running in pretty much every session up until qualifying, everyone seemed cautious about what quali would bring. McLaren looked on brilliant form during qualifying and at the last minute Lewis Hamilton looked set to take pole... Until Sebastian Vettel came along and went almost half a second faster! Well, normal service resumed from the German driver and his Red Bull team then! The big surprises in qualifying included Schumacher losing a wheel on his first outlap and crashing into the barriers. Turns out, the wheel nut was cross-threaded and so the accident was kind of inevitable. However, this wasn't much of a comfort as Schumi qualified in 24th place. Heikki Kovalainen had some good luck though, as he managed to get his Lotus into Q2 once again, showing that Lotus are indeed improving and are approaching the pace of the mid-field. Another surprise was that Jenson Button could only qualify 13th, after slowing to let team-mate Lewis Hamilton past - something which must have been (to use a common F1 phrase) 'bitterly disappointing'. After Senna's crash on Friday, everyone was thrilled when he managed to qualify in 7th place - clearly, this man is one to watch in the future.One final thing to mention about quali was the crash between Hamilton and Maldonado - a crash which looked like revenge from Maldonado after Lewis Hamilton passed him when setting a fast time. Maldonado was given a 5 place grid drop (surprisingly lenient in my view) and Hamilton given yet another reprimand for the incident.

So, with the grid set it was time for race day. Spa is typically a circuit suited to those cars with great straight line speed - traditionally not Red Bull. Sectors 1 and 3 are characterised by long straights, whereas sector 2 is more to the Red Bulls' liking. With this in mind then, it would be interesting to see who had the advantage this year. Another problem for Red Bull was that their tyres suffered from blistering (possibly caused by Newey experimenting with more camber than Pirelli recommended) to such an extent that the bosses and drivers were worried for the safety of their drivers. So worried in fact that they appealed to change their tyres on the grid - something which is not permitted for those in the top 10 qualifiers. Of course, this request was denied, provoking anger among the team - not less Sebastian who could be seen having stern words with a Pirelli worker. Red Bull are though a racing team and so rather than face a penalty for changing tyres, extensive calculations were carried out and the team figured that Mark Webber's tyres would last until lap 3, and Sebastian's would last until lap 5 - both pitted on these respective laps. With disaster averted in this respect, the race could continue.

Although Sebastian started on pole, it was Nico Rosberg who had an awesome start - seriously one of the best starts I've ever seen - and took the lead on lap one. However, this lead was short lived and eventually normal service was resumed. You all know I'm not one to describe the race in every detail, so I recommend you watch the race to see Rosberg's amazing start, and to see an edge-of-the-seat overtake by Webber on Alonso. Really, an overtake on the outside of Alonso at Eau Rouge is something else - no wonder Christian Horner said he closed his eyes! Spa wasn't so kind on Lewis Hamilton however, and he clocked up another DNF after crashing into Kamui Kobayashi. Lewis did later say that it was 100% his fault and apologised to the team, however you have to wonder whether Hamilton is becoming one of the unluckiest men in F1 right now.

After one of the most thrilling races I've seen this year, Sebastian Vettel overtook several other drivers (who said he wasn't a racer?!) and eventually won the race, with Mark Webber bringing in a second place for Red Bull and Jensonwatch the race if you haven't already - it's convinced me and my Dad to take a trip to this race in 2012! With Sebastian's victory comes another blow to the championship rivals - Sebastian can win the driver's championship in Singapore should he win the next two races. However, F1 is increasingly unpredictable and so we can only wait and see what happens. No doubt we'll still get some thrilling action throughout the rest of the year. Bring on Monza!

Friday, 12 August 2011

Insurance Woes

I'm writing this blog in a bit of a blind rage at the moment. My insurance company has made a change to the detail of my policy which has resulted in it being pushed up by an additional £300! My policy for my first year of driving was around £400 - pretty good considering I was insured at the age of 18 and my car of choice is an old Land Rover. Fair enough, I was on a limited mileage policy, my excess was massive (making me drive far more cautiously to be fair) and I was a named driver, but a £400 premium for a new, young driver isn't bad. Now, when my renewal came through the price had tripled to £1200. So, I had a year's experience, but my insurance had gone up threefold? Obviously, we didn't want to accept that so we moved to a new company (ironically, the Green Company for my hardly green Landy). The premium was still more expensive than my first year (probably due to the 'credit crunch' or whatever the news is labelling it as now), but only by another £200. Brilliant, I was still able to drive my car.

Now, today my insurance company have made a change to my policy which means that my insurance is nearly £900 at the flick of a switch. Why should this be? I have no idea. Oh and don't forget that this includes admin charges which we never called for in the first place! So, unless they explain why it's that much more expensive or put the charges back down it looks as if I'll move companies again - or give up driving until I'm at the golden age of 21 where insurance starts to move to sensible prices.

In preparation for get more insurance hunting, I went on and looked up prices. Three months ago my average quote was around £600, which was pretty much the limit for us. Today, my average quote is over £1000. I can't afford this. I have an inkling that the reason for the price increase is the new legislation which means insurers can't charge men and women different prices any more. A big drive for gender equality means that women's insurance has gone up, rather than men's coming down. Well done feminists. Sorry. It's probably not their fault, but I feel there's a lot of short-sightedness in that they expected men to have cheaper insurance. What self respecting company would miss an opportunity to make more dough? So, a failure on the campaigners' part I feel as now we're all worse off. Ok, I'm the world's worst feminist (can't stand the movement but that's not for delving into on this blog).

So, while we're now worse off but equal on gender terms, where are the campaigns against age discrimination? Why should I as a young driver pay more than an older driver? You could argue that it's down to experience. Well, I've run an experiment into this. For me to drive a Peugeot 306 1995 as a 19 year old, non-home owner, student living at home, holding a driving licence for 1 year and 5 months it will cost me at least £1400. Change the date of birth to a 39 year old but keep all other details the same? £800. Why should someone with the same level of driving experience have their premium nearly halved? Where are the laws preventing age discrimination? Simply, there are none. This is wrong.

Now, another experiment I ran was with my Land Rover quotes. For me to be a named driver on my Dad's policy it will cost me over £1000 as I said earlier. For my Dad to insure the car without me on the policy? £85. Honestly. No, I haven't missed a '0' off the end. It really would cost £85 over a year to insure that car - but because I'm aged 19 and have only held my licence for just under 2 years it costs over 10 times the amount. Crazy or what?

So what of my quandary? I can either stop driving for two years until my premium goes down to something I can afford, try and plead with my insurance company or try and find something cheaper. Whether I succeed in this is a different matter. Hardly seems fair that my insurance is so high because of my age. Maybe I'll start my own campaign. Except what would happen? Older people would have to pay more, rather than young people paying less. Isn't capitalism great? I'll update you on whether I can keep driving at a later date. For now, I'm going to try and calm down by filling myself with tea!

Monday, 1 August 2011

The Power of F1 Fans

I've written a lot about the new BBC/Sky F1 deal which comes into effect next year. The level of outrage towards this deal is immense - I've never seen this much unrest among F1 fans. The main reasons for this unhappiness vary, and I'll outline some of them further on.

The BBC/Sky deal is basically that Sky Sports will show every F1 practice session, qualifying session and race live. Apparently, no adverts will interrupt the race, however it's unclear whether ads will interrupt any other sessions and it's likely that any pre-race build up will include ads. As well as this, Sky will charge £30.50 per month for the privilege of accessing Sky Sports - on top of the existing Sky subscription fee. Now, to watch free F1 we can go to the BBC. Great! However, we can only watch 10 races live, with delayed extended highlights for the rest of the season. I don't know about you, but 10 full races and 10 select moments doesn't seem to equal a season to me. I also object to highlights programmes - would you watch a football moment for only the goals? No? Then why watch an F1 race for only the overtakes? Oh, and we'll also have to pay a license fee as per usual.

Our options then? Watch a full F1 season live (as we have done for many many years) for a large fee, in turn giving a profit to Murdoch's unethical empire, or watch half an F1 season live and try to avoid seeing the result before the highlights.

So, people need to be made aware of the main causes of outrage and some of the pitfalls of this deal. Such causes include:
  • Paying a huge amount to continue to be dedicated fans - F1 is expensive to watch in person, why should it be expensive to watch it on a television?
  • We're being given no choice of whom we pay. Recently the Murdochs have been central in the phone-hacking scandal - should F1 be affiliated with a company that engages in these practices?
  • The deal was struck when BBC still had a contract. We would have enjoyed free F1 on the BBC until the end of the 2013 season if the contract hadn't been broken
  • Both the BBC and Sky are being hazy on the details of the coverage. There are rumours that the BBC Online and Mobile coverage will be unchanged - does this mean we can watch all races online or does it mean that the coverage is the same as the TV coverage, highlights and selective races?
  • If the BBC had backed away from a deal with Sky, we could have had F1 on Channel 4 or Channel 5. Yes, ads would have interrupted but we could still watch a full season for free - we coped with ads on ITV
  • It was rumoured that the Concorde agreement had safeguards to prevent F1 moving to PPV. Apparently though, the BBC's half-hearted coverage means that this safeguard is bypassed
  • Teams initially seemed worried about the new deal, however now they're all fine with it because they will receive extra income - the fans are not being considered, nor is the obvious drop in audience size
  • Sponsors may object to the deal, meaning that F1 loses more money than it makes as a result of the deal. In turn, should sponsors move away from smaller teams then these teams could be lost
  • The BBC is spending £900,000,000 on a move to Manchester, yet a £45,000,000 contract for F1 is too much. Presenters are also payed the big bucks, but F1's 6,000,000 strong audience and nearly 50% share in all TV viewers isn't enough apparently.
  • An article by Ben Gallop of the BBC got over 6,000 comments, yet the comments section was closed and the comments are apparently ignored.
So, with all these things in mind many fans believe that it's time for their voice to be heard to try and knock some sense into the F1 big boys. F1 fans should be considered in such deals, as well as just the financial implications. Now, a few email addresses and petitions have been posted on the Facebook and Twitter pages of Keep F1 On The BBC (@KEEP_F1_ON_BBC). To make things easier for us fans, here's a list of these email addresses and petitions. Use them responsibly: don't give abuse to innocent people, just make it clear that there are a lot of us who are unhappy. We're drawing the attention of officials to our displeasure, not making their life a misery, so don't make us look bad! You'll find the addresses of people to email on the links.

Keep F1 on BBC Petition

Formula One Teams Association (FOTA)

BBC Complaints

Keep F1 on FTA Petition

Twitition (Twitter Petition)

BBC Sport

Sky Sports

If anyone has any more contacts please feel free to drop me a message on Twitter (@MooEvilBoffin) and I'll add them to the list. Once again, please be sensible if you're going to email anyone - don't make F1 fans look bad. Be polite - we just want to draw attention to the displeasure about the deal, not antagonise innocent people. Hopefully the power of the fans will save F1 and keep it free for all!