Monday, September 27, 2010

And then there were three?

Well, one more GP has gone by and it would seem my my comment about the McLaren having the third best car is holding true. Not only was Hamilton dropping back from Alonso and Vettel, he also got jumped by Webber at the pitstops. While he did slice the gap down from eight to four seconds before the safety car, it was all for nothing as the duo collided on lap 34, leaving Lewis with a broken left rear suspension while Mark escaped with a banged up front right wheel (there was a decent gap between the tyre itself and the rim...see the picture below). Further proof of that was that, despite Jenson being in a perfectly good car, he still couldn't do anything with Webber's wounded Red Bull.

Webber's wheel after the contact...see the gap at the top of the rim? It should be flush with the sidewall.

Considering Lewis' mishap at Monza with his right front being broken from contact with Massa's Ferrari, one has to wonder if McLaren have sacrificed robustness in their quest to keep up the pace of development...

Anyway, the table now sees Webber holding an 11 point gap over the hard charging Alonso, with Hamilton another nine behind that. Vettel and Button are still hanging in, being 21 and 25 points off Mark's tally. Meanwhile, Red Bull have pulled a bit of a gap over McLaren in the Constructors' Championship, with Ferrari really needing Felipe to step it up if they want to make it a three way tussle.

With just four races to go (three if Korea isn't ready in time), Webber is hanging on pretty well. He might not be winning, but he's still scoring decent points and they guys behind him keep swapping places so he's padding to his lead...but Alonso is coming fast and is, quite possibly, in better form now than what saw him claim back-to-back titles in 2005 and 2006. The wildcard is probably Hamilton who, after saying his chances were looking bleak, doesn't really have anything to lose.

If Webber can pull it off, it will be an amazing turnaround from 2009. Leaving Hungary second in the standings, he then went four races in a row without scoring a point. With Japan being the last of those, and considering how mighty the Red Bull was there last year in Vettel's hands, he's well on his way to banishing that stretch of races from his mind having gone second, sixth and third in the same three races this year.

Still anyone's title...but McLaren appear to be starting to fade a touch.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A belated 2010 Winter Olympics post

Ok, first things first; yes, this post is some six months after the fact but I was hoping this particular day would come. See, there was a display here which had the Olympic medals and people were allowed to get up close and personal with them. Also, klv requested this and after the F1 fiasco last week, I thought I'd better pull my finger out and do this ASAP.

So, without further interruption, here's my experience of the 2010 Games from an Abbotsford perspective. Unlike the Sydney Games back in 2000, I was close enough to the host city to feel the vibe this time...and besides, I like the Winter Games more anyway.

At the time, I was working at the airport so we got a pretty good feel of both the Olympics and Paralympics. Not only did we get a brand new FBO (fixed base operator) that processed the private jets that came in, we also had a few 'names' pop by (the Governator, Vice President of Russia, hockey players, that kind of thing). February 28 was the busiest day, airspace-wise, in this regions history; Abbotsford processed some 80 jets alone.

She was a busy Sunday at YXX.

How we kept track of the planes expected at the FBO.

The torch swung by a few times, although the official torch relay date was February 7. I believe there was some small gridiron game played on that day as well but this was far more cooler. The airport itself got to see the torch a further two times, and yes we all got our pikkies taken with it. The torchhad a funky little maple leaf engraved on the side but none of the pictures I took of it really turned out very well so you'll just have to take my word for it.

Yes, that is an Australian National Ice Hockey jersey...and yes, it was worn to work a few times.

I had no idea I was at a changeover point until the bearer on the right turned up.

As far as Vancouver goes, I ventured in on the 20th to soak in the atmosphere...mighty glad I did since the buzz in the host city was amazing. Rather ordinary timing from me however as that was the one day Canada didn't win a medal. I suppose I could say I was one of the rare people to experience the Olympic rings in their typical blue colour rather than lighting up whichever colour medal Canada had won.

Downtown Vancouver during the Games.

The Olympic rings from across the water.

The first day people were allowed to get close to the flame.

Which brings us round circle to today where I was fortunate enough to get a photo of me with a gold medal...alas, that didn't bring Australia's tally up by one but frankly, I don't care. According to the little fact sheet I picked up today, 615 medals were handed out at the Olympics and 399 for the Paralympics.

Gold to Austral...wait, what do you mean 'no'?

All in all, the two months went by pretty well. It was both Australia's and Canada's most successful games in history and we got a ripsnorter of a hockey match as a finale...Sochi in 2014 has a bit to live up to.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Chase fields for the TNC's

Ok, now that the first 26 rounds are done, we have the only 12 guys in with a shot to win the titles. In a rather dull twist, the QC dozen stayed the same after Bristol while Clint Bowyer snuck past Matt Kenseth in the RC. Ultimately, Jimmie Johnson ended up with the lead after 26 rounds of qualifying but it's Jamie McMurray who ranks first having scored the most pole positions. The RC saw Kevin Harvick unable to be caught after his win in Michigan and, coupled with his three wins, he and Denny Hamlin lead the way as we head to Loudon.

So to the resets then.

Tez's NASCAR Qualifying Championship - chase field with bonus points:
1 - Jamie McMurray, 12 points (3 poles)
=2 - Kurt Busch, 8 points (2 poles)
=2 - Kyle Busch, 8 points (2 poles)
=2 - Kasey Kahne, 8 points (2 poles)
=2 - Juan Montoya, 8 points (2 poles)
=2 - Tony Stewart, 8 points (2 poles)
=7 - Jimmie Johnson, 4 points (1 pole)
=7 - Mark Martin, 4 points (1 pole)
=7 - Ryan Newman, 4 points (1 pole)
=10 - Clint Bowyer, 0 points
=10 - Jeff Gordon, 0 points
=10 - David Reutimann, 0 points

The battle for 13th appears to be a seven man one with Carl Edwards holding onto it right now but I'd give down to Greg Biffle (95 points behind) in 19th a shot.

Tez's NASCAR Race Championship - chase field with bonus points:
=1 - Denny Hamlin, 24 points (6 wins)
=1 - Kevin Harvick, 24 points (3 wins + 12 bonus)
3 - Jimmie Johnson, 20 points (5 wins)
4 - Kyle Busch, 12 points (3 wins)
=5 - Kurt Busch, 8 points (2 wins)
=5 - Jamie McMurray, 8 points (2 wins)
=7 - Greg Biffle, 4 points (1 win)
=7 - Tony Stewart, 4 points (1 win)
=9 - Clint Bowyer, 0 points
=9 - Jeff Burton, 0 points
=9 - Carl Edwards, 0 points
=9 - Jeff Gordon, 0 points

Kenseth sits 13th, with Juan Montoya, Kasey Kahne and Mark Martin possibly being the only ones capable of knocking him off.

Remember, the points for the Chase guys now switch to the old CART system (20, 16, 14, 12, 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1) with a bonus point for actually winning the race/nabbing pole position and half points for the races at Loudon, Martinsville and Phoenix as neither reach 400 miles.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Is the 2010 F1 title the one no one wants to win?

Well, the European part of the season is over and the teams pack up and head to Singapore for the next round in a fortnight. As most predicted, Monza saw the Red Bull's struggle (though nowhere near as badly as 2009) but the rest of the cards fell off the table I think.

After having the car to beat at both Montreal and Spa, this should have been a slamdunk for McLaren...well, either they didn't get that memo or it lost something in translation as Ferrari delivered an uppercut to that idea. If Spa was brilliant for Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber, Monza was just as good for Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel as Lewis had a brainfade and wrecked on lap 1 while Webber was left frustrated having stared at the rear wing of Hulkenburg's Williams for pretty much the entire race and had to make do with sixth.

With those five guys now back to being within a race win of each other, it begs the question; who wants it more?

1 - Mark Webber, 187 points
2 - Lewis Hamilton, 182 points
3 - Fernando Alonso, 166 points
4 - Jenson Button, 165 points
5 - Sebastian Vettel, 163 points

Red Bull - with the best car and, arguably, the most talented driver in Vettel, the team went into the year as favourites. While the car is lightning fast, it has proven a little fragile (Sebastian's lost a bunch of points in Bahrain, Australia and Spain) but it's been Webber who has been 'the man'. Both guys are brilliant when out front but only Vettel seems to have that killer instinct when needing to work up through the field (as he showed at Silverstone) while Mark tends to struggle (Valencia anyone?). However, Vettel has also shown signs of cracking under pressure (as he showed at Silverstone, Germany and Spa) while Mark's been pretty solid.

McLaren - they have the last two world champs in their camp, the strongest engine and possibly the best overall group of guys at the factory. They started off a little slowly in Bahrain but whenever the track got wet, the Lewis-Jenson duo quickly showed exactly why they have won the last two titles (both of Button's wins came in the wet while Lewis was supreme at Spa). But when things go wrong, they tend to go wrong in a big way (Jenson retiring on lap 2 at Monaco as the team forgot to remove one of the blankets on the sidepod and it overheated the engine, Lewis losing a certain podium at Spain when his suspension failed on the last lap). The thing is though, while this is the best driver pairing, they have, possibly, only the third best car on the grid and that might prove to be their downfall in the end.

Ferrari - throwing all their weight behind the two time champion, the weight of expectation and a team fired up after a dismal 2009. They got off to the perfect start, going 1-2 at Bahrain, then appeared to slowly disappear from radar until Germany when they did it again. Alonso's only weakness comes from within; he's on his eighth and last engine and, with all due respect to Felipe Massa, doesn't have a teammate capable of pushing him all the way like Red Bull and McLaren do. I think the Ferrari is the second best car...but whether that's enough will have to wait to be seen.

Of the tracks remaining, you'd have to give the nod to Red Bull (of the four used last year, they won on three), but will infighting between Webber and Vettel allow the other three the advantage they need to pip them at the post?

The last time I recall five guys gunning for the title was in 1986 with Mansell, Piquet, Prost, Senna and Rosberg...and that year ended with Nigel's spectacular tyre blowout at Adelaide which ultimately led to Prost nabbing his second title.

Personally, I think it'll be either Jenson or Mark...they seem to be the most consistant of the bunch. Obviously, I shall be cheering on my fellow Aussie.