Monthly Archives: March 2015

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2015 F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia — Results & aftermath

Vettel roars back to the top step for Ferrari stunning Mercedes; Hamilton a disgruntled 2nd, Rosberg 3rd

Sebastian Vettel stormed to his maiden win with Ferrari at the sultry Sepang circuit on Sunday, earning the first victory for the fabled Scuderia in well over a year. It was also the 4-time former World Champion’s first win since 2013. Using excellent tire strategy calls and the improved Ferrari powerplant, Vettel stunned the heavily favored Mercedes Silver Arrows. Wisely staying out while the Mercedes duo pitted during an early safety car period, the German ace was able to gain both track position and maximum use out of the fast but fragile softer tires, thus enabling him to execute a 2-stop strategy and run the more durable compound effectively to the end of the race.

Pictures via GrandPrix247.com

Pictures via GrandPrix247.com

Converesely, the Silver Arrows were done no favors by their race engineers with a 3-stop strategy that wound up splitting them. Despite the extra stop, the were unable to match Vettel’s ferocious pace at the end of the race. An audibly peeved Hamilton was overtaken for the lead while in the pits by Vettel’s charging Ferrari and had to settle for 2nd over 8.5 seconds back. Rosberg ended up 12.3 seconds adrift in 3rd after an earlier delay in the pits when he was stuck behind his teammate in the queue for service. Ferrari’s surprising ascendency after a dreadful year last season and Vettel’s seeming ability to get the most out of the new chassis from the get go is just what Formula 1 needed to spice up what was predicted to be another championship processional for Mercedes and Hamilton. Now it’s game on and, as the old saying goes, that’s why you run the races.

Vettel’s teammate Kimi Raikkonen, despite a disappointing Q2 exit in Saturday qulaifying and a first lap puncture in the race, nevertheless picked up valuable points with a gritty 4th place finish. Seeing both Ferraris run so well despite some adversity strongly indicates that this year’s model is a serious challenger and at minimum a major threat to Williams’ and Red Bulls’ hopes for 2nd overall in the Constructors’ Championship. Speaking of Williams, they had a relatively poor weekend with mistakes in strategy and tire selection that could well have cost them a better finish. Valtteri Bottas, returning from injury, was able to make an oustanding and gutsy outside pass on his teammate Felipe Massa late in the race and they finished P5 and 6 respectively. Rookies Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz were again impressive for a very competive Torro Rosso, finishing P7 and P8. That was ahead of the senior Red Bulls of Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo, whose Renault-powered chassis were again down on power and also struggled with brake overheating issues on the tropical circuit. No doubt Red Bull team manager Christian Horner’s head is about explode seeing his former championship driver back in winning form with another team and, adding insult to injury, getting outperformed by the kids at Torro Rosso .

Of course, all headaches are relative. McLaren had another migraine type of weekend and were forced to retire both cars before the checkered flag with various engine ailments, spoiling Fernando Alonso’s debut with the team and return from concussion after a testing accident. On the plus side, McLaren did seem genuinely faster than they had been in Australia so perhaps all is not lost for 2015… if they can somehow improve the reliability of the Honda powerplants. Also in the glass half-full category, Manor (formerly Marussia) actually managed to start one of their cars on Sunday, proving once again that in motorsport there are many different kinds of victories, some small and some large. But for Vettel and Ferrari, Sunday’s magnificent win in Malaysia was nothing short of massive.

Top 10 finishers for the Malaysian Grand Prix:

Pos Driver                  Car                          Gap
1     Sebastian Vettel  Ferrari                     1h41m05.793s
2     Lewis Hamilton   Mercedes                 8.569s
3     Nico Rosberg     Mercedes                 12.310s
4     Kimi Raikkonen  Ferrari                       53.822s
5     Valtteri Bottas     Williams/Mercedes   1m10.409s
6     Felipe Massa      Williams/Mercedes   1m13.586s
7     Max Verstappen Toro Rosso/Renault  1m37.762s
8     Carlos Sainz       Toro Rosso/Renault  1 Lap
9     Daniil Kvyat         Red Bull/Renault      1 Lap
10   Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault       1 Lap

Complete results available at Autosport.com.

The next race weekend is on April 10 – 12 in Shanghai, China — hope to see you then.

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2015 F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia — Qualifying results

Hamilton back on pole in Malaysia but Vettel’s Ferrari splits the Mercedes after downpour, Rosberg 3rd fastest

Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes was fastest again in Saturday qualifying after a typical Sepang circuit downpour and delay. But the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel also showed surprising speed on Intermediate tires, trailing the favored English World Champion by less than a tenth. That meant the Scuderia’s new prize driver split the Silver Arrows and will start Sunday’s second 2015 race side-by-side with Hamilton on the front row and ahead of Nico Rosberg, who claimed P3 on the grid. If the conditions are similar on race day look for Vettel, a top perforemer in the wet, to challenge for the win and the fans loyal to the Prancing Horse to go completely bonkers.

Red Bull were also much improved in the tricky wet conditions, with Daniel Ricciardo P4 and Daniil Kvyat fifth fastest. The youngest F1 driver ever, Max Verstappen, continued to impress and managed a solid P6 for Torro Rosso. Williams gambled and lost on tire selection and Felipe Massa could do no better than 7th with teammate Valtteri Bottas, returning from a back injury that forced he and his car to miss the Autralian Grand Prix two weeks ago, having only the 9th fatsest time. Lotus again looked good on Saturday and although Sunday will be the true test Romain Grosjean drove to a solid P8 (later dropped 2 spots for a pit lane passing infraction). Marcus Ericsson had a solid run for greatly improved Sauber to capture 10th position, the Swede’s own personal best qualifying effort.

Fernado Alonso returned from his enforced time off due to concussion, which saw him miss race 1 in Australia, but McLaren were still woeful. The proud two-time World Champion was the slowest of the runners in 18th with teammate Jenson Button barely better in 17th. Safe to say it’s going to be a long year for the storied team from Woking!

Top 10 Qualifiers:

P No Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Laps
1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:39.269 1:41.517 1:49.834 13
2 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:39.814 1:39.632 1:49.908 13
3 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:39.374 1:39.377 1:50.299 13
4 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:40.504 1:41.085 1:51.541 16
5 26 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull Racing 1:40.546 1:41.665 1:51.951 16
6 33 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:40.793 1:41.430 1:51.981 16
7 19 Felipe Massa Williams 1:40.543 1:41.230 1:52.473 17
8 8 Romain Grosjean* Lotus 1:40.303 1:41.209 1:52.981 18
9 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:40.249 1:40.650 1:53.179 14
10 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:40.340 1:41.748 1:53.261 18

*Penalized 2 grid positions for illegal pass in pit lane

Full updated results at Autosport.com.

Sunday’s race airs live on NBC Sports at 3AM Eastern. Unless you’ve got a lot left in the tank after clubbing until then I’d recommend DVRing it and watching once you’ve had brunch.

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Quitting cigarettes — still one of the best things a guy can do for his health

If you haven’t already, there’s one thing you can do to almost instantly improve your health in a multitude of ways: quit smoking cigarettes. I’m not talking about foregoing the occasional cigar or pipe — that sort of tobacco is not great for you but used in extreme moderation, it’s not going to potentially ruin your health like butts will. Cigarettes on the other hand are bad for your blood pressure, your heart and lungs, your skin and your hair, your eyes & eyesight, your mouth and your teeth, your stamina and sex drive and your circulation and digestion… to name but a few of their nasty side effects. And obviously smoking is one of the world’s leading carcinogens, increasing your cancer risk exponentially when used as directed. Remember: you might survive cigarette-induced cancer but you will not be unmarked by it.

If you’ve never smoked cigarettes in earnest, good for you. If you’ve already quit, congratulations for taking such a big step on living a longer, more healthy life. And if you haven’t yet I can only ask: why the hell not, dude? I know, I know, you’re young and tough and nothing’s going to harm you and you feel like a real man with a smoke in your mouth. Well, by the time you get into your 30s, that’s not going to be quite true anymore and your doctor will probably begin noticing some signs of mortality like higher blood pressure or diminished lung capacity, both directly attributable to smoking. I smoked throughout my 20s and quit when I turned 30 and now I can’t even think of a good reason why I ever used cigarettes at all. One too many Hollywood movies where the hero chain-smoked his way through the film (the links between Hollywood and the tobacco industry are deep and well documented)? The fact that my father smoked and so it connected cigarettes with an ideal of manliness in my mind? Either way, it was damn stupid and once I finally stopped I pretty quickly got to a place where I was never tempted to smoke those coffin nails again. Or should I say coughin’ nails?

Thankfully, once I decided to quit it didn’t take too long to put it behind me altogether. I will say that the toughest part of making quitting stick for me was de-linking it from enjoying a drink out at social occasions with other smokers. Alcohol and tobacco make a very seductive team! Continue reading

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12 Hours of Sebring alert

For those who enjoy multi-class sports car racing, the Tudor United SportsCar Championship offers up another American classic later this morning: The 12 Hours of Sebring. Beginning at 11am from the famed old airport track in western Florida, this bumpy 3.74 mile circuit is often said to be harder on man and machine than the 24 Hours of Le Mans. You can catch all the action, which is often spectacular and quite dangerous despite the flat course, live on a variety of Fox Sports platforms and IMSA.com’s live stream, as below:

Television Broadcast:
  • 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM ET (LIVE)

    FOX Sports 1

  • 12:30 PM – 07:00 PM ET (Live)
    FOX Sports 2
  • 07:00 PM – 10:00 PM ET (Live)

    IMSA

  • 10:00 PM – 11:00 PM ET (Live)
    FOX Sports 2
  • 08:00 AM – 10:00 AM ET (Recap)
    FOX Sports 1

    So all you sports car fans out there, strap in and buckle up for 12 hours of multi-class mayhem Sebring style!

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2015 F1 Grand Prix of Australia — Results & aftermath

The new season got off to a very strange start in Australia on Sunday, as nearly half the field failed to make it to the end of the race and several big names were out even before the grid was formed. Young drivers also showed that they belonged in the big time with standout performances that put pressure on the established stars. And a former 4-time World Champion came in from the cold and into the warm embrace of Maranello and the tifosi. But for all that was new and unexpected at the Albert Park street circuit in Melbourne one thing was all-too-familiar for the chasing teams in the paddock: Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton continued to reign supreme.

Mercedes & Hamilton still untouchable in 2015 debut, Rosberg a familiar 2nd; Vettel takes Ferrari back to the podium

Running from Pole to the win in intense but seemingly effortless manner, 2-time and defending World Champion Lewis Hamilton laid down a fierce challenge to his teammate Nico Rosberg and any other pretenders to the throne. The Englishman badly wants a third title to put him the conversation of all-time greats and even if it was only the debut race of the season it’s hard to see how anyone is going to stop him. The Mercedes F1 W06 looks potentially more dominant than last year’s model with a season’s worth of race data for improved reliability under its belt and what appears to be increased horsepower squeezed out of the advanced hybrid engine. And Hamilton may well have broken Rosberg’s resolve with last year’s end-of-season rampage to snatch the title from the German for a potentially unbeatable psychological edge. So, with the near-perfection of the Silver Arrows, a once-defeated Rosberg seems to be the only driver that can pose a challenge to Hamilton on paper. Now, maybe the runner-up can rise to the challenge and wrest the Championship away. But at times in Australia it felt like Hamilton was merely toying with his German foil: Rosberg would close the gap to under 2 seconds as the race wore on and Hamilton would pull it out again at will. Rosberg never did get to within the 1-second margin, the magic number for DRS use and overtaking possibilities. Obviously, it’s only Race 1 of a 20 Grand Prix calendar. But barring unforeseen circumstances, we could well be looking at the beginning of one of the most dominant seasons ever for an F1 pilot.

Behind the orderly march to victory of the Mercedes factory duo, all was chaos. Continue reading

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What we’re listening to — I’m In Love With My Car by Queen

I’m not that big of a Queen fan — they were played to death on the radio when I was a kid and there’s something about the rococo pretensions of a song like “Bohemian Rhapsody” that makes me want to do violence to the local jukebox. But I do like this song, probably because it isn’t one of their big hits and also it doesn’t really sound that much like Queen for the simple fact that it’s a Roger Taylor composition and not a Freddy Mercury. Also, I’m sensing a theme around here so this one goes out to Graham while we wait for his report from Down Under. And really, all of us around here are in love with our cars whatever the make or model. Aren’t you?

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2015 F1 Grand Prix of Australia — Qualifying results

After a seemingly interminable winter, the 2015 Formula 1 season is finally upon us and Qualifying for the Grand Prix of Australia went down earlier today at Albert Park in Melbourne. Would Mercedes still reign supreme after last year’s romp to the double World Championship? Or would Williams, Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren have found something to take the fight to the Silver Arrows? It was all there on display Saturday, the moment of truth after a long off-season of testing, driver changes and just plain waiting for the engines to be fired in anger for that one-of-a-kind thrill: the start of a new Grand Prix season…

Hamilton opens title defense with dominant Pole in Melbourne, Mercedes’ teammate Rosberg a familiar 2nd; Massa 3rd for Williams proving 2014 was no fluke

Ominously for the rest of the paddock, 2015 started out much like 2014: With the Mercedes chassis dominant from the start and the Drivers’ Championship looking like a strictly intramural battle between reigning World Champion Lewis Hamilton and his runner-up teammate, Nico Rosberg. Continuing the momentum of his end-of-season rampage that clinched last year’s title, Hamilton got the better of Rosberg in the first Qualifying session of the new year, laying down a blistering 1:26.3 in Q3 at the beautiful Albert Park street circuit, which so often serves as the season’s first field of battle. His archrival Rosberg, whose car appeared to suffer from minor mystery maladies all weekend long, nevertheless cruised to second on the grid, a mere .6 behind the Englishman. Also following last year’s trend line, the Mercedes-powered Williams of Filipe Massa qualified a strong 3rd, just under .8 seconds behind Rosberg. Again, it looks like Mercedes is the engine to have in the rebirth of the turbo-charged era and that the factory team, along with its superlative duo of pilots, has the chassis to beat.

Sebastian Vettel in his new ride

Sebastian Vettel in his new ride

All was not an exact copy of 2014, however, and perhaps no team seemed more revived than Ferrari, who appear to have put last year’s dismal and dysfunctional campaign well and truly in the rearview mirror. Continue reading

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Watch Collector’s Notebook — IWC’s original Yacht Club, an avant garde answer to the Datejust

One of my favorite vintage brands and one which I also feel is consistently undervalued is the International Watch Company of Schaffhausen, better known as simply IWC. Back in the day, every IWC watch had an in-house movement and their manual wind and automatic calibers were some of the best, most reliable and accurate machines on the market. With their bespoke Pelleton winding system, which was developed by the marque’s famed technical director Albert Pelleton in the early 1950s, IWC offered a solid alternative, if not also an implicit challenge, to Rolex’s longtime dominance of full rotor automatic technology. IWC continued to develop their 85x auto calibers for nearly two decades until they reached what many experts consider the pinnacle with their legendary 8541B movement. And it is the 8541B that you find in IWC’s other implicit challenge to Rolex, the beautifully designed Yacht Club model.

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Debuting right at the dawn of the funky 1970s when the Swiss watch industry would go somewhat design mad chasing rapidly changing tastes and fashions, the Yacht Club manages to be at once cutting edge and traditional. Making full use of the sweeping lines of the “C”-shape case, variations of which are also found in contemporaneous Omega Constellations and Heuer’s automatic Carrera, the Yacht Club’s heavy steel case is a perfectly proportioned 36mm X 44mm. That’s much bigger than the rather medium-sized C-shape Connie and obviously not as big as Heuer’s macho racing chronograph, so where it ends up is exactly in the same size bracket as Rolex’s evergreen, the Datejust. And that’s really the best analog and probably the exact watch IWC were gunning for. For if the Datejust was the icon of a never-changing design standard, the Yacht Club aimed to offer the same sort of elegance but with a bit of an avant garde twist for the modern man.

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Hence the lugs sweep inward toward the bracelet rather than projecting out in a relatively straight line like the DJ, giving the dial extra prominence and pop. And what beautiful dials the Yacht Clubs had, from the classic beauty of starburst silver to moody, manly gray to my personal favorite, an astonishing blue that changes in hue ever so subtly depending on the angle at which its viewed. Note also the classy way the date discs are not one-size-fits-all for the colored dials but rather reverse printed with white numerals on the matching color background of the dial. Nice touch! The hands are luminous with black inlay and very easy to read and there is something that really appeals about the applied IWC logo of this period. I like it better than the earlier printed full script “International Watch Co.” alone and much more than the later boring printed block lettering, which still adorns their dials today.

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The Yacht Club was also a departure for IWC in that prior to its introduction they produced only a few special models with a screw back case design, such as the anti-magnetic Ingenieur and the diver-centric Aquatimer. Continue reading

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RIP Leonard Nimoy, 1931 — 2015

Leonard Nimoy, an actor who became a worldwide cultural icon with his multifaceted portrayal of Mr. Spock in the groundbreaking 1960s sci-fi series Star Trek, died this past Friday at the age of 83. Nimoy’s characterization of the starship Enterprise’s First Officer functioned as the calm, intellectual super ego influence on Captain Kirk in diametric opposition to the id persona of the hyper-emotional Dr. “Bones” McCoy. The only alien crewmember in the original series, Nimoy gave creative life to the Vulcan philosophy of anti-emotionalism, logic and intellectual rigor and portrayed the consummate outsider bemusedly observing the confusing passions and paradoxes of the human species. In the series, the Vulcan race had long ago determined to exercise rigid control of their emotions in order to put an end the destructive internecine conflicts of their race. But as a mixed race man whose mother was from Earth, Nimoy also gave subtle expression to the human impulses beneath the surface of Spock’s greenish, pointy-eared exterior, which he sometimes struggled to control.

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With its futuristic vision of the USS Enterprise as a powerful but peaceful galactic explorer, representative of a vast United Federation of Planets including an Earth that had survived near-apocalyptic conflicts in the 20th and 21st centuries, Gene Roddenberry’s idealistic creation was not an overnight sensation. Slowly but inexorably it gained in popularity, growing from a cult following during its short 3-year 1966-69 run on NBC into a global phenomenon, the relentless result of non-stop syndication, animated spin-offs, novelizations and popular paraphernalia & technical literature. By the time Star Trek was reborn cinematically a decade later in the aftermath of the mega-success of Star Wars, an entirely new audience was ready to receive its tales of multi-ethnic, multi-cultural space adventure, which Roddenberry sometimes slyly referred to as simply a “Western in space.” As the myriad sequels, prequels and entirely new associated TV series proved, Star Trek may have started out as geek culture but there was a hunger across a large segment of the world for this intelligently thought out future of our civilization and its flawed but noble heroes and charismatic super villains. And as geek became chic and the brainy outsider became the unlikely hero of a new industrial revolution in the Computer and Internet Age, it’s no great stretch to believe that it was Nimoy’s characterization of Spock, cerebral and outwardly implacable with hidden reserves of humanity, that helped inspire future computer titans like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs in their youth. Building upon The Space Race mania of the 60s, Star Trek helped make science and technology as cool and appealing as the astronauts did — just ask all those fans who wound up working at NASA and in other engineering and technological fields. And, as not only the Enterprise’s First Officer but also its Chief Science Officer, no one was cooler than Mr. Spock.

The cast of the original Star Trek series and creator Gene Roddenberry meet the Space Shuttle Enterprise

The cast of the original Star Trek series and creator Gene Roddenberry meet the Space Shuttle Enterprise

Leonard Nimoy was also the cast member who had been with the franchise the longest, predating William Shatner’s Kirk and DeForest Kelley’s McCoy. Continue reading