Monthly Archives: November 2013

Pit Stop – Vettel makes it nine in a row – By Lewis Brearley

So the 2013 Formula One season is now over. Sebastian Vettel equalled the ancient record of nine consecutive grand prix wins set by Alberto Ascari in his Ferrari across the 1952 and 1953 seasons.

The seasons themselves only contained six races back then and the fact it took 60 years for it to be repeated emphasizes just how big of an achievement it is.

Formula One has changed so much in between the ages of Ascari and Vettel. From races where half the grid would fail to reach the chequered flag due to mechanical gremlins and the racetracks were lined with unprotected trees and walls, to almost impeccable reliability and cars and tracks which have to pass strict safety tests before they see any action; yet one thing is constant – the fastest driver and car combination always wins.

The fastest combination by far this season has been Vettel and his Red Bull RB9. Using his superb feel for the delicate Pirelli tyres and the aerodynamic characteristics of 2013 Formula One cars, he has managed to harness phenomenal speed from Adrian Newey’s genius design.

The RB9 was the pick of the field in 2013, especially in the second half of the season post-Hungary. Newey and the Renault engineers managed to smooth the flow of the exhaust gases so that the diffuser was ‘sealed’ more often and more effectively.

This sealing means the disruptive wake caused by the rear wheels does not invade the air flowing through the diffuser, thereby decreasing the air pressure within it. The lower the air pressure, the faster the air can flow through the diffuser and the greater the downforce level produced.

However, harnessing the full benefits of this technology required a certain driving style. As the effect was lost when the driver took his foot of the accelerator, the driver had to cope with oversteer on corner entry. As the car got loose through the middle of the corner, the driver would have to have the confidence and balanced feel of the throttle, to re apply just the right amount of throttle to get the read end working fully again.

If the driver could react to this oversteer and had superb feel, then this combination of an early, sharp turn in and early acceleration led to amazing speed. As the season’s results show, Sebastian Vettel was much more adept at driving in this style than his team mate, Mark Webber.

Yet these characteristics are all gone now. Next year’s cars have a set place for their single exhausts, angled up towards the rear wing. It’s accepted that it will be impossible to redirect the flow towards the diffuser this time.

This all means Vettel’s advantage from the past three years will be wiped out. How he copes with this and how he adapts to the new cars will be his chance to get the last of those pesky critics of his back.

Next week, we’ll take a look at Mark Webber’s illustrious, 215 race long, career.

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Bowled Over – First Ashes Test Review – By Luqman Liaqat

Australia inflicted a humiliating 381-run defeat on England in the First Ashes test at Brisbane as Mitchell Johnson blew their rather fragile batting-line up away.

Having to face an uphill task of needing 561 runs to win, or realistically forcing the test match into the final day England detached from 142-4 to 179-all out.

Only captain Alistair Cook showed some resistance with 65 as his team lost four wickets for nine runs in a disastrous afternoon session at the Gabba.

Poor shot selection cost Kevin Pietersen and Matt Prior but Johnson was deadly as he closed the match with figures 9-103.

After winning the toss and choosing to bat first Australia struggled in the opening moments of the 2013/14 Ashes. It was Stuart Broad, set up as a villain by the local media, who created the first talking point as he quietened the boisterous Gabba crowd when Chris Rodgers was caught at gully from a delivery that climbed off the pitch.

Opener Warner and Shane Watson settled the Aussies nerves for the next hour before Broad struck again capturing Watson (22) with a neat catch at second clip from Graeme Swann.

Lunch provide some respite for the hosts, but once the cricket commenced it was the same story for them as captain Michael Clarke (1) found Ian Bell at short leg and Warner (49) slapped a short one straight to Pietersen reducing the score to 83-4.

Broad was at his very best as he sent George Bailey packing on his Test debut and Steven Smith (31) who flourished for a short time then became Chris Tremlett’s first scalp leaving the Australian falling apart at 132-6.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom for the hosts because Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson put together a 114-run stand. Haddin reached his half-century off 100 balls and Johnson jointed him by lofting two sixes off Swann.

Run came quickly before Broad fought back clean bowling Johnson (64) to the relief of England and James Anderson picked up another one before the end as Australia closed on 273-8.

Calamity struck early on day two as Haddin was run out six short from a deserved Ashes ton and Broad picked up his fifth victim of Ryan Harris who played behind to the wicketkeeper. The media villain then polished off the Australian innings with the final wicket as he walked off with figures of 6-81.

A total of 295 appeared below par on a batting pitch, but it all changed when Cook (13) fell to Harris and Johnson had Trott (10) caught down the leg-side.

Pietersen on his 100th Test survived a dropped caught and bowled chance but after only 27 runs were scored after lunch his luck ran out when he thumped the ball straight to Bailey.

Michael Carberry (40) fought with admirable poise on his return in the Test arena but Nathan Lyon tied him down before Johnson roughed him up by coming around the wickets.

Bell fended one to Smith and then Prior went the very next ball falling to the combination of Lyon (2-17) and Smith leaving England teetering on 87-6.

Broad survived Lyon hat-trick ball before Swann fell for duck to a nasty delivery from Johnson (4-61) as he claimed a fourth scalp. Although Broad (32) and Tremlett (10) put a brief halt to the carnage, England were bundled out 136.

Before the close of the second day, Australia ensured their lead was expanded from the 159 after the England first innings to a strong 224 as Warner (45) and Rodgers (13) settled in at 65-0.

The three lions restored some hope on day three as Broad and Tremlett (3-69) struck early to remove Rodgers and Watson leaving the score 75-2.

Despite the early strikes the English bowling department couldn’t match the aggression and pace of Harris and Johnson.  Warner and Clarke put on 158 for the third wicket, Clarke assaulted the bowlers with brutal force including a six over long-on.

In the middle session, Swann’s three overs went for 38 bringing their 150 run stand before Warner welcomed Broad back into the attack with another mighty six and he fell soon after for 124.

Clarke used his feet brilliantly to Swann and reached his 100 with a controlled drive as the Gabba rose in delight. Swann (2-135) finally had some success when Clarke (113) was bowled coming down the track as Australia reached tea 299-5 (lead of 458).

Haddin (53) and Johnson (39 not out) continued from where they left off in the first innings, smashing the new ball all around the park as Clarke called for the declaration at 401-7 giving England a mammoth target of 561.

The tourists could not even last an hour before the close as first Carberry (0), then Trott (9) followed him off Johnson leaving the score reading a miserable 24-2 at the close of day three.

In the morning, Pietersen put on 52 with Cook before hooking Johnson straight to the substitute fielder at fine leg.

Bell came out and ensured England went to lunch only three down at 98-3, however his support for Cook ended on 32 when he was dismissed by Siddle.

From that moment it went all wrong for the batting line-up, Cook (65) edged behind to Haddin off Lyon. Prior only made four before Johnson sent Broad and Swann back in space of three balls as the tourist slumped to 151-8.

Tremlett hung around for 40 odd deliveries before popping Harris to short leg and Johnson (5-42) finished  things off by taking a simple caught and bowled from Anderson.

Joe Root stayed high and dry on 26, a brief cameo which gave some comfort to the visiting supporters.

However, this match was completely dominated by Australia and now the tour continues for England with a warm-up fixture against Chairman’s XI before coming face to face with Johnson and co again on 4 December in Adelaide for the Second Ashes test.

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It’snowheaven – Jibbing in the streets of London – By Jess Softley

Last week, London really showed how great snowboarders can be born without snow covered mountains as O’Neil’s Shoreditch jam session got underway.

This jibbing-focused, rail event took place in the streets of London, as 50 tonnes of snow was shipped and compacted in a street themed set up.

Riders had the chance to show off their skills on features such as, a double decker bus, phone box, bus stop and a post box, to name but a few.

The event kicked off with an open jam session as all 24 riders threw down some skill on the park with spot prizes awarded for stand-out performances.

Andy Nudds killed his runs in the jam session, gaining £100 cash prize before the real competition had even begun.

It was a tough event as the final four competitors from both disciplines lined up for their head to head battle to make the top three podium positions.

It was in the final where skier and Halifax native, Tyler Harding came into his own impressing the judges all the way into first place, claiming his well-earned cash prize of £500.  Following Tyler is second place was Ross Welch, with George Walton just snatching 3rd place from Micheal Rowlands.

The snowboarding final saw some insane tricks as Sparrow Knox stole first place with a stylish frontside 270 to switch boardside on the rail, finishing it off with a tap on the post box, to claim his cash prize as well as £200 from the best trick award. John Weatherly also pulled off some killer runs to secure himself a place on the podium, slotting in behind Knox with 2nd place, with Ollie Dutton just clinching 3rd ahead of Andy Nudds.

After a crazy day, an event like this would not be complete without an equally crazy after party as the riders gathered once again to party just as hard as they ride.

And if this event is anything to go by, then we should certainly expect to see more quality riding from Britain.

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Pit Stop – Season Finale – By Lewis Brearley

This weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix will be a historic affair even if Sebastian Vettel doesn’t win and equal both Michael Schumacher’s season win record of 13 and the nine race long consecutive win streak set by Alberto Ascari.

Not only is it the final race of 2013, it is also the final race with the current aerodynamic regulations, the last hurrah for the glorious V8 engines Formula One has used since 2006, Mark Webber’s final grand prix before he moves to the World Endurance Championship and Felipe Massa’s last race in his storied time at Ferrari.

A Webber win with Felipe Massa on the podium would therefore be a perfect way for the 2013 season to sign off. The likelihood of such is low however with Vettel having such a strong advantage over Webber and Ferrari being far off the pace set by both Red Bull, Lotus and Mercedes.

No driver has ever won their retirement grand prix and Webber has probably the best chance anyone has ever had to do so and the Aussie is always at his best at the classic racetracks like Interlagos. So for a full Webber appraisal it would be wise to wait until after his 217th grand prix.

While watching this weekend’s Formula One, take a moment to admire the machinery. The current cars with their exhaust blown diffuser technology mastered so brilliantly by Adrian Newey and his Red Bull team have been evolving ever since the regulations were altered in 2009.

The five seasons with the rules have been dominated by Red Bull and their lead driver, Sebastian Vettel who has managed to harness the technology to levels beyond any if his rivals. It has brought him four straight championships and 37 of his 38 career wins – one being before the 2009 changes.

The era of the V8 is longer. The rasping roar of these engines has provided the background noise for eight seasons and will be given a fond farewell at the atmospheric racetrack in the middle of Sao Paulo.

Fernando Alonso took the first win in the V8 era with a Renault engine and with Red Bull so strong and Lotus second best, Renault is very likely to bookend the era with another win.

With this history in mind, the race between the two Red Bulls and the battle for second in the constructors’ championship could be gripping.

While Lotus have the best race car at the moment, Mercedes have a 33 point advantage over the Enstone team. With Ferrari dead in the middle and on a weak run of form, Lotus could nick third from the mighty Scuderia, which for a team having financial difficulties would be a huge boost.

Tune in this weekend, it won’t be “just another Vettel win.”

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Pit Stop – Drivers transfer season – By Lewis Brearley

This week’s Formula One news was dominated by rumours and confirmations of drivers moving to and fro.

After weeks of inaction, the 2014 driver market is finally beginning to take some kind of shape.
Early in the week Williams announced what had been rumoured ever since Rob Smedley – Massa’s respected and trusted engineer – joined the team a couple of months ago when Ferrari confirmed Massa’s sacking. Massa therefore joins the highly rated rookie, Valtteri Bottas at the struggling Grove team.

Despite the many columns of criticism aimed at Massa over the past couple of years, he is a strong signing for a midfield team. He is one of the most experienced drivers on the grid, having made his debut back in 2002, is still very fast as his 9-8 qualifying record against Fernando Alonso proves, and attracts lots of exposure in the huge, F1 loving market of Brazil.

With Massa and hopefully some backing from Brazilian companies on board, combined with the addition of Pat Symonds as technical director, Williams may just be able to save themselves from their current dire predicament, having scored just one point all season.

The second driver move that took place this week was a little bit more unexpected. Sergio Perez confirmed that he had been sacked by McLaren after just one season at the team. Just a couple of days later McLaren confirmed that their promising young driver, Formula Renault 3.5 champion Kevin Magnussen, would take over as Jenson Button’s team mate.

After the Abu Dhabi grand prix, engineers within the team as well as people involved in the young driver programme, began to push for Magnussen to replace Perez. The team, in particular engineers working with Perez, are said to have low opinions of the Mexican’s work ethic and potential speed.

This leaves Perez as a late big name addition to the expansive pool of drivers looking for 2014 seats. At the age of just 23, Perez is still inexperienced and has admitted himself that his future prospects have just been hit very hard indeed.

The last driver to be a disappointment at McLaren was Heikki Kovalainen. He went on to race three more seasons at the Caterham team with a best place finish in all that time of 15th position. Perez and the backers of the Mexican grand prix will be hoping Perez has more F1 left in him than that.

The mooted race in Mexico City has faced rumours this week that it will delay its return to 2015 due to the construction required to bring the track up to acceptable standards. Whether it will happen at all if Mexico has no promising driver to get behind is unclear indeed.

The final story this week relates to the long running saga that is Kimi Raikkonen’s replacement at Lotus. With Kimi deciding to have back surgery now rather than compete in the final two grand prix the team had to move fast. Nico Hulkenberg, the team’s favourite potential driver, surprisingly turned down the opportunity to leave Sauber early leaving the team to replace a Finn with another Finn.

So Heikki Kovalainen returns to Formula One this weekend. Maybe his exploits will put him in the 2014 picture?

It’snowheaven – Pleasure Jam Kicks Off Season – By Jess Softley

The annual 4star TTR event that is The O’Neil Pleasure Jam kicked off Europe’s winter season, as riders from all over the world came to Schladming-Dachstein, Austria to battle it for a whopping prize purse of 20,000 USD.

This invite only event allows snowboarding’s elites to compete in one of the best parks around with the perfect backdrop of Austria’s Dachstein glacier.

With the sun shining and a killer set up, this year’s competitors gave it their all as the last of the heats came to an end, leaving the final 6 riders to step up their game to claim the all-important prize purse.

Despite not making it into the final, our very own Brit riders Nate Kern and Rowan Coultas both held their own in the semi-finals to prove that they belong with the big boys.

It was a tough final for the girls as Aimee Fuller, Isabel Derungs and Anna Gasser all threw down some serious moves to try and claim first place. But it was Swiss rider Isabel that came out on top soaring to 1st place with her steezy backside rodeo giving her an unassailable score of 75.30.

The Austrian female wonder that is Anna Gasser left the media stunned last week, as she stomped a cab double underflip (more than once) making her the first female rider to have ever landed this kind of double cork off a park kicker.

So as you can guess, everyone was anxious to see what she would pull out of the bag to earn her place on the podium. But it was actually her stylish ‘slow-mo’ backside 180 that clinched her second place spot.

It was Britain’s very own powder girl, Aimee Fuller that made it into the final three just slipping in behind Anna to take 3rd place.

The men’s final saw some on the best riding we’ve seen as Sweden native, Sven Thorgren clawed his way to victory with a monster cab double 1080, followed by a backside 1080, and a killer double rodeo to finish it off. After two years of missing out on 1st place, I’m sure Sven will be stoked with his top podium position scoring a total of 91.00 points.

Unfortunately for David Hablützel, his run only scored him 87.80 which meant settling for second place with his backside 900, cab double 1080 and frontside 720.

Brage Richenburg just managed to steal 3rd place with a stylish frontside 1080, giving him a total of 79.80 points.

After a long and eventful day, with some well fought runs, the Dachstein Glacier was proud to be home to some of the best names in the snowboarding, even if it was just for a day.

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Pit Stop – All down to last race – By Lewis Brearley

This weekend sees the 18th and final chapter of the globetrotting duel that is the 2013 MotoGP world championship.

At Valencia, either Marc Marquez – the current leader by 13 points – or Jorge Lorenzo – the current champion – will take this year’s title.

For only the second time in 20 years, the battle has come down to the final round. It’s a fitting statistic as both of the contenders have raced at a standard rarely seen in this sport.

Both Marquez and Lorenzo have been superb all season with only the odd mistake to blot their record. Marquez has been the luckier of the two, with just a dislocated shoulder at Silverstone and a badly grazed hand at Mugello on his injury list. Lorenzo, meanwhile fractured his left collarbone and injured his shoulder after making a mistake in practice at Assen.

This cost him points, despite a magnificently brave ride, at Assen and the following race at the Sachsenring where he exacerbated the injury after a second practice crash forced him out of the race altogether.

Marquez took advantage of this free hand to start a run of four consecutive victories in the middle of the season, which made him the championship leader by 43 points with just three rounds to go.
But Phillip Island had a surprise in store, or rather Bridgestone’s inability to make a tyre last the full race distance did. The race was made into a two part affair with a mandatory pitstop enforced on laps 10-11.

When Marquez pitted on lap 12 eyebrows were raised and much to Honda’s embarrassment and anger, the black flag was given to Marquez. With Lorenzo taking the win and the 25 points, the lead was down to just 18 with two races remaining.

Honda claimed it was a team decision and that they had been led to believe a stop on lap 12 was allowed as only 11 laps would have been completed by Marquez. However, it’s much easier to believe this was just an excuse for Marquez missing his pit board. With all the brainpower present in the Honda garage, a simple bit of maths is unlikely to have stumped them.

The confusion and controversy of Australia followed by Lorenzo’s victory in Motegi, means Marquez leads by 13 points going into the finale. But that is the important bit – Marquez leads. He only needs a fourth place finish even if Lorenzo wins and Marquez hasn’t finished lower than third all year. Marquez has the advantage.

However, Valencia in November can serve up a few shocks. Last year it rained and Dani Pedrosa won after starting from the pit lane. In 2006 Valentino Rossi ended up in the gravel and gifted the title to Nicky Hayden.

Marquez too could easily end up in the gravel if he hits a damp patch, or the pressure finally gets to him. The only thing that’s certain is that it’s going to be a thrilling finale.

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Pit Stop -Vettel takes fourth title – By Lewis Brearley

The Buddh circuit pit straight, a Red Bull RB9 and a four time world champion. A series of donuts followed by a bow from driver to car. An exuberant celebration after a flawless and sublime victory in which Sebastian Vettel made the legendary appear easy.

It was an iconic moment on a day when Vettel seemed to finally get the respect he, his team and his fans felt he deserved a long time ago.

Lewis Hamilton, who a few months ago claimed that Vettel was not even in the same class as himself and Fernando Alonso, admitted he might just have got it wrong.

Hamilton was talking after a poor race in which he had been outpaced by his team mate, Nico Rosberg. It’s the frequency of these subdued races that stops Hamilton from putting up any sort of championship challenge against Vettel who himself has worked to make sure every single race is a show of excellence.

Alonso also had a poor race by his own high standards. Outqualified by Felipe Massa, contact on the first lap and a race long struggle to overtake slower cars combined to damage his claim that Vettel is only beating him because he drives a faster car.

This isn’t criticism of Hamilton and Alonso as not even the greatest drivers are perfect. But Vettel is currently the closest of any of the current grid to that perfection. Sure, he does have the fastest car but his team mate – a highly rated race winner and championship challenger – lies fifth in the championship with zero wins in 2013.

Vettel took his sixth consecutive win – becoming only the third man to do so – and his tenth win this season with a perfect performance.

Starting from pole position he pulled out a comfortable gap before he pitted on only the second lap, the extremely short first stint necessitated by the fragility of the Pirelli softs.

This early stop put him right in the centre of the midfield and here was where many expected Mark Webber, on the alternative strategy of starting on the longer lasting hard compound, to gain time.
However, as with so many things this season, Vettel showed his class by pulling off a series of clean and precise overtakes, and also setting fastest laps in the meantime.

Vettel made sure he encountered his victims at the DRS zone and backed off during the fast corners, minimising time spent in a car’s dirty air and therefore minimising tyre wear and lost time.

Towards the final few laps, after Vettel had relentlessly gained a 20 second lead and Webber had retired, the team began to worry that they wouldn’t make the finish with their number one car either.

So paranoid were Red Bull that even Vettel’s KERS and drinks bottle were purposely disabled. Yet Vettel reached the chequered flag and became only the fourth, four time world champion.

A sub plot to all this was Kimi Raikkonen’s spat with his Lotus team. After stupidly getting in the way of team mate Romain Grosjean, Raikkonen was profanely told to move aside. Kimi responded with his own strong words and unsurprisingly is rumoured to have fallen out with the team over the affair to such an extent that on Thursday he hadn’t yet arrived at the Abu Dhabi circuit.
Whether he turns up or not, Vettel will be there. And he’ll probably be leading too.

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