F1’s Hall of Shame

Following a call for solidarity from Lewis Hamilton, 14 drivers took a knee at the start of the Austrian Grand Prix yesterday. That means that six didn’t. Who were they?

I’m prepared to give a pass to Daniil Kvyat. He has to survive in Russia. There are all sorts of political pressures on him that other drivers don’t experience.

Another four have something in common. Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi drive for an Italian-based team that are Ferrari engine customers. Charles LeClerc drives for Ferrari, and Carlos Sainz will be driving for Ferrari next year. The only exception is the second Ferrari driver, Sebastien Vettel, but they have fired him so he can do what he likes. Haas are also Ferrari engine customers, but the team is American-owned and neither driver is Italian.

So I think there is more going on here than drivers expressing an opinion. It is possible that there’s only one driver who wasn’t under political pressure of some sort not to join the protest.

That would be Max Verstappen, whom I suspect made that choice because he wanted to get under Lewis’s skin. Christian Horner needs to give the boy a good talking to.

Coronavirus – Day #51

I seem to have been productive today. I finished reading a book. I finished editing next week’s radio show. And I finished doing the Wizard’s Tower accounts for April.

Regarding the latter, as a small press, any month in which you sell over 3,000 books has to be a good month. Admitedly more than half of those were copies of The Green Man’s Heir when it was on sale for 99p at Amazon, but even so it is a lot of readers.

Also we were treated to a fantastic F1 race this evening. OK, it is only sim racing, but Charles LeClerc and Alex Albon put on a brilliant show. There are two major benefits of the sim races over the real thing. Firstly overtaking is much easier because the game doesn’t model the slipstream effects that make it so difficult in real life. And although the cars might appear to be in different liveries, they are actually identical in performance so the race is down to driver skill, not who has the best aero package and engine.

By the way, I have discovered that as a community radio presenter I do actually qualify as a key worker and can apply for a C-19 test. However, my nearest testing station is, I think, at Bristol Airport, which is over an hour’s drive away. I’m very comfortable just staying at home, thank you.

Coronavirus – Day #50

Wow, 50 days. Admittedly I have been to Tesco for food on three of those days, and I have occasionally had delivery men knock on the door, so it hasn’t been total isolation, but that’s quite a stretch of time to have mostly not left the house. I’m starting to feel guilty that I’m OK with this, because so many of my friends are getting more and more wound up about it.

Today is apparently a weekend day. I have a radio show to produce for next week so I have been busy. We are going to be talking about sex and books. Sounds good to me.

Oh, and the Formula E continues to be entertaining.

Coronavirus – Day #43

Today is a Saturday. I am sufficiently aware of the calendar to know that. Saturdays are often days when I watch a lot of sport on TV. Of course there’s no in-person live sport happening right now. The TV companies are gamely trying to keep up interest by showing classic matches, but it isn’t the same.

The other alternative is esports. Most sports simulation games that I have seen are deeply disappointing because they are nothing like the real thing. But there is one exception. Motor racing simulations are very close to real racing. Indeed, top flight drivers spend a lot of time practicing in simulation rigs, because running their cars on an actual track is very expensive.

The result of this is that it is possible to stage a simulated motor race that looks almost like the real thing on TV, and which professional drivers can compete in and enjoy.

The Formula 1 races they have had thus far have been more of a PR stunt. Neither Vettel nor Hamilton have risked their reputations by competing, and celebrity guest drivers have clogged up the back of the field. However, Charles LeClerc as proved that he’s the class of the field by easily winning both races held thus far.

Formula E is different. They are running a full 8-race season with two separate championships. The Challenge races will feature a range of guest drivers including up-and-coming drivers and professional esports racers, driving for the usual Formula E teams. Trans racing driver, Charlie Martin, has a seat in the Techeetah team for that. The main championship features the actual drivers from the physical races, driving their usual cars. A couple of them have had technical issues and not been able to take part, but the vast majority of the drivers have competed.

As a spectator, I’ve found the racing just as much fun as the real thing, especially now they have turned on realistic damage. They ran a practice race last weekend without it, and that ended up being more like a fairground dodgem car ride. The drivers themselves asked for damage to be turned on because it would make a better test of their skills.

So hooray for Formula E, who are once again breaking new ground in motorsport. And hooray for Charlie who finished a creditable 18th out of a field of 24. She’s the only woman in the field, and the level of competition is a step up from what she’s used to, so she’s doing really well.

Out in the “real” world, UK deaths are back above 800 again today. The numbers fluctuate from day to day, and they are certainly not growing exponentially as you’d expect from an out of control pandemic. But I think it is still too early to say that we are past the peak.

Coronavirus – Day #36

So, birthday under Lockdown turns out to be much the same as any other birthday, but with a lot more (virtual) company.

I began the day by doing a trans history talk for a local LGBT+ group (adults this time), which was fun.

I have a fair amount of work of various sorts to do, but I decided to goof off for the day and do some baking. I don’t have a usable oven, so for Christmas I bought myself one of these (cheap in a Clark’s Village outlet store). I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had a chance to use it before today.

I decided to make scones (for cream tea) as they are fairly easy. They turned out suprisingly well for a first attempt. They were a little over-done, but machines like this are very precise and now I know to reduce the heat setting next time.

I had sport! Formula E has launched a sim series with most of the actual drivers taking part, plus a side race for other folks. It was actually the side race that interested me most as it had a combination of amateurs, profesional esports players, and young drivers hoping to break in to the big time. Charlie Martin has a seat in the Techeetah team. Sadly she didn’t do very well, but everyone is learning right now so I hope she’ll perform better in later races.

And of course there was WiFi SciFi 2. Only one panel this time, and it devolved into discussion of the writing business which is less of interest to me, but probably more what the punters want.

Next up: dinner, wine, cheese, TV or movie.

World, what world?

YA and Gender Conference, Italy 2017

Hello academic pals. Here is a conference that you may be interested in. It is called Literature, Translation, and Mediation by and for Children: Gender, Diversity, and Stereotype, and it will take place at the University of Bologna at Forlì in October 2017. That’s a fair way off, but abstracts have to be in by January 31st so you don’t as much time as it seems.

You may be asking why I am recommending this. Well, obviously the subject matter is of interest. But in addition one of the organizers of the conference is Dr. Raffaella Baccolini who was the scholar Guest of Honor at Finncon this year. She’s very smart, and a lovely person. I’m sure she’ll put on a great conference.

Also, there’s the location. Forlì is not actually in Bologna. It is a little way south-east thereof. It is actually closer to Ravenna than Bologna, and if I am going to be in the area there’s no way I am not going to see those mosaics and to pay my respects to Theodora. About half way between Bologna and Forlì there’s a little town called Imola, which is home to the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari, one time home of the San Marino Grand Prix. And of course San Marino itself is just a little further along the main road from Forlì.

Actually, to be frank, if I’m going to Italy then I have to go to Rome too because there are things in the Capitoline Museum that I need to see. I would love to go to Pompeii as well, but I don’t know how far the budget will stretch.

Anyway, it sounds like an amazing opportunity, and I shall certainly be submitting a paper. Hopefully some of you folks will be interested in going too. I don’t want to have to consume all of that great Italian food and wine by myself.

You can find the Call for Papers here.

Le Mans – Not Just For Boys

I don’t post about motorsport very often here because I get the impression that most of you are not very interested in it. However, I did want to mention a few things about this year’s Le Mans 24 hour race.

The race finished with a 1-2 victory for the Audi E-tron Quattro team. As you might guess from the name, these cars are hybrids.

The race was a second successive victory for the car and the driving team of Benoît Tréluyer, André Lotterer and Marcel Fässler. My interest, however, is in their race engineer. You have three drivers because it isn’t safe for anyone to drive for 24 hours non-stop. The race engineer, however, is the car’s manager and chief technical expert, and consequently has to be on the pit wall throughout the race. Take a bow, therefore, Leena Gade, also winning her second successive Le Mans. You can read more about her here.

Hopefully one day she’ll achieve her ambition to manage a Formula 1 team.

IPL Final

The final match of this year’s IPL is just getting underway in its temporary home of Johannesburg. Much to everyone’s surprise, the two teams are last year’s whipping boys, the Deccan Chargers and Bangalore Royal Challengers. The Chargers are perhaps less of a shock, as they have always had a decent team. Adam Gilchrist has finally got into the Twenty20 groove and is leading from the front. The Royal Challengers, on the other hand, have not only recovered from their disastrous form last season, they have survived a dreadful start to this year under an out-of-form Kevin Pietersen. Huge kudos is due to Anil Kumble for getting the team back on track.

Spare a thought, though for Vijay Mallya. It is a tough life being a sports-mad billionaire, especially when your Formula 1 team is always at the back of the grid. The one consolation of this embarrassing life style is that you get to go to Monaco once a year and swan around in the harbor on your yacht. This year, however, Mallya can’t go. He has to be in South Africa to watch his cricket team in the IPL final. What a terrible state of affairs.

Bad Week for Sport

Well, that’s the IPL done for this year. It should have been easy. The Royals had one game left, against the bottom-of-the-table Kolkata Knight Riders. All they needed to do was win, and they would be in the semi-finals. They choked. Warnie was not happy. Neither am I. The Royals had a reputation for coming good in big games. I expected better of them.

Wellington Hurricanes, on the other hand, have a reputation of messing up big games. This year was no different. Despite a pretty good season, they once again failed to make the Super 14 final. The ‘Canes have one season left to make good, because as of 2011 I expect the Melbourne Rebels to finally take their place in Super Rugby and with a Victorian team to support I will have to bid farewell to New Zealand.

And to make matters worse, Somerset have just failed to defend a score of 285 in a 50-overs match.

Oh well, at least Jenson seems to be having a good weekend.

And They’re Off!

F1 roars back into life this weekend in Melbourne. Friday practice has finished, and if things stay the same way tomorrow then the front row of the grid will be — all Williams. The Ferrari and Brawn cars also did well. Heiki was 5th, so anything Lewis says about the McLaren being off the pace needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. Good to see Adrian Sutil in the Force India very competitive in 9th. Here’s hoping for a very competitive season (and fewer lawyers).

A US F1 Team?

Today’s BBC news brings a report that a new Formula 1 team may join the circus in 2010. It will be headed by none other than Peter Windsor, who is a former manager of the Williams team as well as being one of the sport’s best known journalists.

The team is apparently to be known (at least for now) as USF1. The cars will be built in North Carolina and the drivers will all be American. Names being suggested include Scott Speed, Marco Andretti and Danica Patrick.

Now if only someone would get on and buy the Honda team so that our Jensen was guaranteed a drive for this year.

Busy Weekend

It seems like I’m finally getting caught up on the various projects I have had backed up since mid-April, so I can afford to take it fairly easy this weekend. That’s just as well, because it is serious couch potato time. Early tomorrow morning we have the semi-finals of the Super-14 rugby, beginning with the Hurricanes having to visit Christchurch where the Crusaders probably haven’t lost since the 4th Century. That’s followed by the Warratahs and the Sharks duking it out for the right to be the sacrificial non-New Zealand team in the final. Then in the evening attention switches to the Millennium Stadium where it is Ireland against France as Munster and Toulouse contest the Heineken Cup final. And on Sunday Bath play Worcester in the European Challenge Cup final. There are also two test matches going on (though I guess the chances of play in Manchester are not good), more games in the IPL, and of course the Monaco Grand Prix.

The good news for you lot is that not only will all this TV watching keep me away from the keyboard, but Kevin will be wanting to watch recordings of a lot of it when he gets home from MarCon so I won’t be talking about the Super-14 games or the F1 race here.

Good Weekend

Wow, that was a busy one. There will be more posts coming today, but for now I just want to do a quick comment on sporting stuff. Obviously I’m still on cloud 9 over the Welsh Grand Slam, and I expect to be there for some time to come. However, congratulations are also due to the England cricket team for starting to get their act together in New Zealand. It looked messy at times, but a win is a win. Congratulations also to Lewis Hamilton for starting off the season in fine form, and to the seriously cute Nico Rosberg for his first podium finish. If Melbourne is anything to go by, it will be a great Grand Prix season.