Friday, 29 July 2011

silverstone 2011 f1 gp part 4

So, race day at last. I appreciate this is some serious overkill, but I don't get to go to an actual Grand Prix every year so you'll forgive me posting multiple things about it.

I've also actually not got much to say about race day itself. We basically headed straight down to our assigned seating in Stowe and stayed there all day. There was less in the way of on track action, with the final races for each of GP3, GP2, Porsche and of course F1.

I didn't take quite so many pictures, either, as from experience I tend to try to take photos on the less important days and concentrate on the actual racing on Sunday.

So here's the last batch of photos:

In between races the martial's were often out on the track, giving it a good clean.

This is the second of the GP2 races. Both the GP2 and GP3 support formulas have multiple races. They're a bit bonkers in the lower formulas - young kids with no sense of self preservation and a desire to prove themselves good enough to advance to the next level, so you get a lot of overtaking.

In years gone by there would be loads of odds and sods by way of entertainment, but not so much in later years - they tend to have the big concert at the end instead. This is Fernando Alonso going around in the first ever car entered by Ferrari, which was 60 years ago.

Alonso gave it some beans and actually got a few power slides on in the car. It's owned by Bernie Ecclestone and we were having some fun imagining what he was saying to him about driving like that when Alonso got out. Amusingly, the driver's parade actually set off without Alonso as it was straight after this.

During the race you're normally too into it to take photos, but here's a shot of a Red Bull during the actual race.

And here's one of Lewis and Alonso, I believe.

Overall it was a cracking race. We got to see some overtaking at Stowe and, as always, there's so much going on that before you know it the race is over.

We had about an hour to wander back and so hung around to watch the post race interviews on the screens, then it was back to the hotel for dinner and bed. But this time it was bed knowing we could have a nice lie-in!

Of course the holiday didn't actually stop there.

Tuesday we drove back to my Dad's and I have to confess I was rather unimpressed with my Dad. The drive up he'd been really careful and cautious, but on the drive back he drove like a loony.

Basically, I think this was due a conflation of circumstances. On the drive up it was very early in the morning, so it was dark and it was also raining horribly, plus he was totally unfamiliar with the car. On the way back it was early afternoon by the time he got behind the wheel and was now somewhat more familiar.

But also he was insistent about using the A303 on the way back. I thought this was a bad idea as it's more complicated than the motorways, but it's also a longer route and if you encounter any problems, it can easily grind to a halt. You can also easily get stuck behind a tractor or caravan.

Now that's okay if you're just doing the journey to Devon, but we would only get to the A303 having spent about 3 hours on the road already. And guess what - we got stuck because some van had broken down near Stonehenge and was blocking the road. That added the best part of an hour to our journey time. And that was after we'd had to follow some old fart pootling along on the road to get down to the A303.

And because of that and the deadline for picking his dog up from the kennels, he put his foot down. What also didn't help is that when we eventually got to Devon and went to pick up the dog, the route was all country lanes, so he's bombing around, nearly crashing into everything from fences to other cars and tractors.

I was not impressed.

And not least of all because he's insistence on going down the A303 clearly added 2 hours to the total journey time.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

silverstone 2011 f1 gp part 3

Saturday started off with another early rise and the coach in to the circuit. We actually went with a tour company, as it just makes everything so much easier.

The weather on Saturday was better described as "sunshine with occasional showers", where it had been "showers with occasional sunshine" on Friday. This made things more pleasant, but unfortunately for Practice 3 it was again wet, so the F1 cars didn't really come out much.

We actually sat in Abbey for the start of the day, so here's some more pics:

On day 2 we started off at Abbey. My Dad's comment was that Abbey wasn't very good, but that was based on the old circuit. Nowadays you can see the start/finish straight, the pits and across the track down to village and the twisty-turny bit.

This is where they exit the pits and you can clearly see that it goes up hill. This is part of the compromise that they've had to make with the new paddocks. Because Silverstone is a circuit that's grown up organically and not been designed from scratch, there are a few unfortunate compromises.

This is one of the big compromises - from Abbey and the main stands along the straight, you can't really see into the closer garages because of how the track rises up. I think I'd be a bit miffed if I was here for the race and was expecting to see the top end teams pitting.

What you can see across to are the lower teams, but they're not really the main attraction. As I say, it's part of the compromises that could only be solved by even bigger wodges of cash, and the paddocks itself was hardly cheap.

Here you can actually see multiple cars going around the various bends that are the new part of the circuit. Our exploits didn't really give us much chance to look at the new bits of track.

Another arty shot, I'm afraid.

After that we wandered down to the International Pit Straight stand, but that was pretty full.

Basically the new paddock complex is down at the opposite end f the circuit to the old complex, as that allowed them to build a bigger building. This also meant the start finish has moved, but they've kept the old start finish and paddocks as well. So now there's the (old) "national" start finish and the (new) "international" start finish.

I have to confess that these stands were a bit of a mixed bad. In Abbey you could see across the new part of the track, which was interesting, but where you should have been able to see into the pits, because of how the track rises up, your view of where the top teams are is blocked. The actual exit of the pits involves driving up a hill.

As I understand it, they're going to redevelop all that area to give people better stands and views, but I think really they need to tweak the circuit so that it's level and then goes up a proper little hill.

We ended up sat in Club again, but in a slightly different position, so here's the photos:

Second up for Saturday we stopped in Club again. It was a different stand, but gave a similar view. This shot looks down the new start/finish straight. You can also see the famed carbon fibre super shed.

Here's another of those stuck together shots, only I missed the middle out, so it looks a bit weird, but shows you club corner and the other bits.

This is looking out along Vale. What you're actually looking at is the old Vale - the new Vale is much tighter and carries on straight for a bit further. You can also just see the pit lane entry.

This hopefully gives a good impression of how our stand was pretty full during this practice session.

Felipe Massa and Jenson Button. A somewhat prophetic shot as they'd be battling to pass each other around Vale during the race.

Schumacher, and also shows you how changeable the weather was on Saturday too - black clouds are rolling in.

Just some on track action. I think Club would be my preferred spot, if money were no object.

I do like the Lotus livery - that black paint finish is very evocative of the old days.

Anyway, our next action was to wander round to Stowe, where our actual seats where. On the Sunday, there's assigned seating, but on Saturday and Friday you can get into any stand if you have the 'roving' pass.

We didn't actually sit in our actual seats, just in the same stand. We did this mainly so my Dad could scope out the area a bit for race day - get familiar with where we needed to go and where the facilities were. I didn't mind, as Stowe's a good place to sit anyway, though it is unfortunately not a covered Grandstand.

Here's the pics from Stowe where we watched qualifying:

We finished off the second day at Stowe. We weren't quite in our actual sets for race day, but this gives you a good feel for what we could see. Jenson would start his move against Felipe here and there were a few other good overtakes too.

One of the Williams. This was actually qualifying for the race, so my attention was more on that than taking pictures.

Mark Webber, I believe, in the Red Bull.

The day ended with us going back to the hotel and this time going out to an Italian restaurant just across the way from the hotel. It was very nice and we ended up eating there on Sunday as well, though that was partly because the other place we tried was closed.

Then it was home again for another early night as we had to get up bright and early again for the coach in. On all three days I have to say the traffic wasn't that bad. In years gone by it used to be a nightmare getting in to the circuit, but they've done a lot of stuff to add to the road capacity around there and they've got it all worked out nowadays in terms of making some roads one way and directing the flow of cars in a sensible fashion.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

silverstone 2011 f1 gp part 2

After first practice, we met up with my sister and her friends.

They were camping, where me and my dad were staying in a hotel. I know that sounds 'unfair' but there's a bunch of things that are a bit private that explain why that was the case.

Anyway, having met up with them we set out to get our fanvision. These used to be known as Kangaroo TV (the devices themselves still had Kangaroo on them) and are basically like little TV sets, but also allow you access to all sorts of other goodies too, including statistics, news and various commentaries. The advantage with these sets is that you get to have your own system that you can carry around with you and plug your earphones into. That means that you can hear stuff (F1 cars are amazingly loud - to the degree that you really have to experience it before you'll believe just how loud they really are) and watch stuff no matter where you are.

The only problem with them is that they seem to have scaled back since they became Fanvision - they used to have loads of places to pick up a set, but they only had 3 at Silverstone, so there was a huge queue. Also, even though we pre-ordered, we still had to queue up.

Thankfully the queue did move quite quickly, so we weren't too long. I think we actually made a bit of an error here, as we got two units between five of us. They're actually quite small things, so I think 3 between five would have been better. Also, despite having used them before, the others failed to bring headphone splitter. Both me and my dad had them, but that still meant only 4 people could listen.

This was partly solved because we had a separate radio unit, but that person was listening to the on-track announcer commentary, rather than 5 live, which we listened to during the F1 bits. To be fair, this was something of a double edged sword, as it meant that person could here commentary during the whole thing, whereas fanvision only showed pictures and commentary during the actual cars-on-track stuff - the rest of the time it repeated highlights.

Anyway, we'd wandered up to the Village area to get our fan vision, which meant we were about a quarter of the way around the track. We kept going and eventually completed a full circuit of the track. It stayed rainy and cold throughout the day, but we managed to time it such that we were mostly sat in a stand when it happened.

Village itself is where they've made the most radical changes to the layout of the circuit. We actually walked along the bit of the circuit they've cut off, which included walking under the famous Bridge section. This area is also now a focus for the entertainment and concession stands.

The next stand we sat in was up at Luffield. This was another good place to sit, especially as it had the camera on a wire. This gave some great shots and was interesting to see it buzzing along its cable, which is apparently 400 meters (a quarter of a mile!) long.

Our second port of call was Luffield, up at the top end of the circuit. This is a compilation shot showing the Luffield area, which as you can see has a whole bunch of bends in it.

This is the old BRDC building.

If you were of a non-sane persuasion, available entertainment included bungee jumping. This is actually over in Village, where there's loads of the concessions and stands and stuff.

You can see the track was mildly moist for second practice too.

You can't see it in any of these shots, but this is where the cracking camera was that swooped around showing you the cars. It gave some really cool shots.

The next stand we went in was at Copse. This was a less good position, I'd say, but we watched some stuff there while it rained. So here's those photos:

Our third stop on Friday was Copse, where you can look over at the old Paddocks. It's when you see the old ones that you realise how much of a step change the new area is.

These are actually GP3 cars, if memory serves. It's good that they now have a clear progression of formulas.

It rained quite a nit while we were sat in Copse.

As you can see, plenty of spray being kicked up. I'm fairly sure this was actually the GP3 qualifying, so they were kind of forced to go out, despite the damp.

The last section was us walking down past Maggets and Beckets and on down to Stowe. I wanted to watch some on track stuff, but I think the others were feeling a little too fatigued, damp and miserable. I can understand this, as it had been a long, wet and rather cold day.

Our final mission was to drive to the hotel. I have to confess that if I'd been on my own I'd have probably tried to load up with some caffeine before attempting this. As it was, I felt really tired, but the presence of my dad in the car navigating kept me awake.

For dinner we just got some hotel bar grub and then went straight to bed.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

silverstone 2011 f1 gp part 1

My week off started on the Thursday, when I drove down to my Dad's in Devon. This was essentially going the opposite way to the Silverstone circuit to some degree, but the idea was that me and my Dad would go up in the one car and share the driving. The easiest thing to do was therefore for me to drive to him and then we could go up from there.

I obviously packed in the morning. Naturally I over packed - this is a function of the fact my suitcase is quite big (I was actually using the smaller of the two suitcases I own) and the fact that the weather forecasts were for changeable weather. I therefore had something to cover every possibility bar snow. I figured snow was fairly unlikely, even for a British July weekend.

The drive up to Silverstone was hell.

We basically had to set off at 4AM, which meant getting up at 3AM. Due to the added combination of excitement and an unfamiliar bed, I got very little sleep that night. It rained, mostly heavily, all the way up. This wasn't helped by the chronic squeak of my wipers - they're relatively new, expense Bosch wipers, but for some reason they squeak like a bastard.

Now, for those that don't know, a GP weekend actually covers three days. There are two practice sessions on the Friday - one in the morning and one in the afternoon, a final practice on Saturday morning and qualifying on Saturday afternoon, with the actual Grand Prix on Sunday afternoon.

My memory from previous times I've been was that 1st practice starts at 10AM, but this year it started at 9AM (they made similar noises about it being earlier on the commentary). We unfortunately didn't arrive until 9AM, meaning the first practice session was just getting under way when we were trying to get in.

To my mind this was a serious error on the planner's part. by making it 9AM you make it more likely people are all going to arrive close to the start time. It also means it overlaps more with normal rush hour. If it had been 10AM, people would have drifted in a bit more.

Instead, when we got to the nearest gate we discovered a huge queue that didn't appear to be moving. Initially we panicked and made some half-hearted attempts to go to other gates, but then we finally just waited in the queue. It was moving, but very slowly and I initially thought it might be because they were checking bags.

However, when I got to the front, I discovered that the real issues was a combined problem of there not being enough people on the gates, processing tickets, and the way they'd designed the tickets. Basically, there was a tear off bit for each of the three days on the one ticket.

The tear off for Friday was next to the one for Saturday, meaning that, if he wasn't careful at making sure the perforation was clean he could take off or damage Saturday by accident too. This meant it was necessary for him to fold the perforation over several times. And, as mentioned, there were only a couple of people on the gate, meaning the whole thing was horribly slow.

Anyway, when we eventually got in, we went straight in to the nearest stand, which happened to be at Club corner. This had a really great view of the new paddock complex and you also therefore got a really good view of the pits and the start/finish straight, as well as Club corner and down to Stowe. Were I picking spots to sit, money no object, that would be a top contender.

So here are some photos for what we saw at club:

This is the new Paddocks complex. I'm sure it's all very swish and everything, but to us regular fans it doesn't mean a great deal. Still, it keeps Bernie happy and that helps to ensure the future of the British GP.

This shows you the new pits that are obviously an integral part of the new paddocks. What you can also clearly see here is the big bit of grass that separates the pit lane from the wall where the engineers sit. To be honest, the new paddocks is a bit of a compromise, as they'd have had to alter the track to really fit it in well - more on that later.

This is the new podium. It's a bit in the middle of nowhere, and the plan is to redo all the stands so that you get better views of it. This year they opened up the circuit so the fans could get on the track in front of it.

One of the Lotus's coming down to Vale Corner, just before Club.

This gives you quite a good feel for the weather - big black cloud, but the track's got sun on it for a bit. You can also see there's a healthy crowd and it's only Friday morning practice. This is what they mean when they talk about atmosphere - we love a bit of motor racing in Britain.

A Red Bull.

Lewis entering the pits. It was actually quicker going in the pits, owing to the fact you cut off vale, club and abbey corners.

Young mister Kobayashi got off onto the Astroturf, which was soaking wet and was a tad unlucky. It could have been a lot nastier as his car almost flipped over when it hit the grass.

This is the martial's recovering Kamui's car. It's remarkable the crashes they can come out of completely fine nowadays.

Bit of an arty farty one, I'm afraid. It's a Mercedes and I'm pretty sure it's Schumacher.

Monday, 25 July 2011

deutsch uber ales

So, the German Grand Prix this last weekend and it was another cracker.

It saw Red Bull clearly not as dominant as they have been previously, with both the Ferraris and McLaren's really taking the race to them. Of course it's going to be a real struggle for anyone to catch and overtake Sebastian Vettel in the standings. And somewhat ironically the fact both McLaren and Ferrari seem resurgent could actually make it more difficult for them to catch Vettel, as they may effectively end up taking points off each other

Vettel's so far in front that it would probably need Vettel's car to expire for several races in a row and that's a pretty slim chance as the cars are way too reliable for that nowadays. I have to say he did seem a bit down throughout the weekend.

I'm not sure if it was the added pressure of it being his home race or the general increase in competition from the other guys, but I half expected him to admit to having a stomach bug or something. He really did seem out of sorts and his performance wasn't that great.

If the comments that he's just not that good a 'racer' as the like of Lewis and Alonso (meaning he's not that good at overtaking) have been getting to him then he did nothing to dispel these, as he seemed to get stuck behind several people - Massa in particular - and was unable to overtake having sailed up to the back of them, when you get the feeling the like of Lewis would have gotten past.

It was a good race, though, and that without the forecasts for rain not coming to anything. And it's a quick turnaround for the next race in Hungary this coming weekend, then we get the summer break before the race at Spa in Belgium, which is always a highlight.

In other weekend news my e-bay auctions I had on went well, with nearly everything going. A few things didn't sell and I relisted them at cheaper start prices. That happens occasionally and I always puzzle over quite why some things sell and others don't.

Actually, sometimes I find it really rather dispiriting, as some of the stuff I'm selling I've held on to because they represent the core of my nerdom. They're kinda the defining elements that define me as a fan of certain things and when I can only sell them at what it would cost to post them (or even at a loss or not at all), it almost feels like a slight against me.

Obviously I know it isn't, but it can be depressing. Heck, it's depressing full stop - I'm not a hoarding pack-rat because I like getting rid of stuff!

The thing that does annoy me, though is when I reduce something (say it started out at £20, it doesn't sell, and then I reduce it to £15 and it does) and it ends up going for what I originally had or more (so people bid it up to £20+). I especially don't get that when there's lots of watchers - if no-one was interested at all, you'd expect it to get no watchers, but if 10 people are watching it and that happens I find it a bit mystifying.

And I still don't have a shower.

There were some bullshit excuses about pipes and stuff, that were basically "we're too cheap to get the plumber in like we promised".

To be frank I'm now resigned to having to use my landlord's shower for the foreseeable future. And I've decided to turn the negatives - can't do scanning, can't dl fansubs - into positives and use that time to watch stuff on DVD so I can start to clear backlog and have more stuff to get on e-bay.