Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Updates, Upgrades and a Two Year Anniversary

It's been a while since I last wrote, and a lot has happened in the mean time.

Last week was a bit of a bumper week for motorsport - for me at least. On Wednesday the 8th of May in particular a lot of special stuff happened. Firstly, it was my 21st birthday. I'm now officially in the adult world - although having lived away from home (well, sort of!) since I started university three years ago means I can't really tell the difference between being 21 and 18! For the past two years my birthday has also been a bit of a celebration of my blog, as I started it on my 19th birthday. I've had a lot of feedback since I started, from all areas of motorsport - journalists, teams and drivers - and it's been a pleasure writing and reaching out to people I might never have spoken to without the blog. So, happy belated 2nd birthday, Musings of a Motorsport Geek!

Now, your 21st birthday is meant to be a special one, and my did this year live up to that! Originally I'd planned to do, well, nothing to be honest. I figured that as it was the middle of the week I'd just spend the day working, and spend the following weekend catching up on the Spanish grand prix (more on that later, I promise). Well, that wasn't to be, and I'm glad my Dad's plan trumped mine! A couple of weeks ago I got a phone call from Dad, saying he needed to 'take me somewhere' on my birthday, and I had to keep the afternoon free. It was all pretty mysterious to be honest, and trust me the surprise was worth it!

On the morning of my birthday I did the usual routine nonsense of work and charging about on the bus (ah, public transport!), and then my Dad came down to uni to take me back home. In the car, he told me that there was a present that had presented (ha, see what I did there?! Oh dear...) a bit of a mystery for everyone. So, when I arrived back home I was greeted with a multitude of presents, one of which was a parcel that had been unopened - bearing the logo of the Red Bull Racing team.

Before anyone asks, no the parcel wasn't sent from a family member posing as the team, it was genuinely sent from the Milton Keynes factory of my favourite team. Those of you who are regular readers might recall that on my 20th birthday the team sent me a fantastic message and photo on Twitter:

Well, this year they trumped that, and posted me a present:

Yep, a signed cap, signed autograph cards and a message from one of the members of the team wishing me a happy birthday! So, thanks to Red Bull Racing - I think you've secured a life-long fan... Same time next year?

So, with the mystery present solved, I moved on to the presents my parents got me. First off, this mystery day out. Dad gave me a letter - I was going to Brands Hatch to drive Caterhams for the afternoon! I've had a few driving experience days, but never one like this, so needless to say I was pretty excited.

Next, my Mum handed me a rather fancy box, inside which was the most amazing dress that my Mum had made with her own fair hands! Yeah, ok, not very motorsport related you might think, but on the fabric was printed some pretty cool classic American cars. I can safely say that nobody else will have anything like it, and I feel it's a pretty good bet that if I go to the Goodwood Revival one day I'll be wandering around in the appropriate attire now all thanks to my Mum! So, with the presents opened, we headed off to Brands for my Caterham experience day.

When we arrived, we went through the usual safety briefings and warnings, before being shown how a professional would drive. The course was a slalom, with lots of opportunities for driving sideways! Once we'd seen how to do it, we got straight in the cars (with no instructor sat beside us, unusually) to practice and have timed runs.

I have to say, I don't think I've ever driven anything as fast as a Caterham. On my 18th birthday, I drove a Subaru rally car, which felt pretty powerful, however the Caterhams were completely different. Once I'd learnt the course, I decided to put my foot down, and I can safely say it was a whole heap of fun! The runs in the cars were short and sweet, but I got to have plenty of goes and the whole day was organised brilliantly. With all of the runs complete at the end of the day, we all gathered for the prize giving. During this part of the day, the instructors there asked anyone who had a 21st birthday to step forward. On being identified as the birthday girl, I was told to grab a crash helmet and get into the Caterham. Yep, I was given a surprise birthday passenger ride around the course with one of the professionals - I've never been in a car doing so many donuts! Overall, the whole day was absolutely fantastic, and I've just about recovered from the dizziness of the passenger ride! So thanks go to the Caterham Drive Experience and, of course, my Dad.

Traditionally, my birthday signals the start of the European F1 season. This year was no different, with F1 returning to Spain. I have to say, having watched the race on Sunday, that I think we had our first boring race of the year. While the start was pretty exciting as usual (Mercedes cars on the front row, followed by Vettel and Alonso - bound to be a thriller), the whole race itself turned into some strange strategy game dictated by the tyre wear.

I last blogged about how technology and tyres had made the races more of a challenge. People had argued that racing was entirely artificial due to DRS, KERS and tyre wear, however I argued that instead it gave drivers more to consider, and now intelligence was rewarded in the races. I still stand by this, but I think the impact of the tyres has now gone too far over the limit - once we start getting boring races because of the 'technical' aspects, it's time to do something. Each radio broadcast we heard was simply 'look after your tyres'. When a driver can't make the most of one of the most technologically developed cars in the world because the tyres are degrading too much, I rather feel that something has to change.

Luckily, today Pirelli announced that they're going to change the tyres for the rest of the season from the Canadian race onwards. This is somewhat of a turnaround for them, as they had previously argued that they would not 'bend to the pressure of Red Bull' (Red Bull being perhaps more vocal than a lot of teams), however I think they'd have been a little mad to not listen to the opinions following Spain. When the teams, drivers, fans and Bernie Ecclestone call for something different, I think you have to do something. So, with any luck we won't have to endure calls to save the tyres much longer. Alright, nothing will change immediately, but given the next race is Monaco, I'm sure F1 will get back to its inspiring ways soon enough