Monthly Archives: April 2015

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Earworm of the day — Fireside by Arctic Monkeys

OK, so I’m sort of obsessing through Arctic Monkey’s AM track by track. Got a lot of intense noctural listenings down in Mexico on headphones amidst the susurrations of the palms and the moonlight so the album’s kind of burrowed in there. But suck on “Fireside” for a bit and see if its propulsive groove and longing lyrics don’t work their way into your brain pan too.

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Watch Collector’s Notebook — Big fun in the shallow end of the Vintage Diver pool

Once again I want to talk about vintage watches that won’t break the bank and that deliver a lot of stylistic bang for the buck. And for the guy who likes a rugged, retro look there are some great values in the vintage dive watch market. Having owned a bunch of these bargain beauties I can tell you that there is still a lot of fun to be had out there for well under a grand.

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For example, take this stunning 1970s Elgin automatic diver: big all-steel screwed case at 41 x 45mm and obviously a mega-cool blue-orange “roulette”-style layout on the dial and hands. If you want a watch that pops on the wrist, you’re looking at it. Plus, it has a very intriguing and robust A. Schild full-rotor automatic caliber 1913 under the hood where one quickly advances the date by repeatedly pushing in the crown. You don’t see that very often and I’m not sure of its overall effect on water resistance — I imagine there is a pretty good gasket system in that crown & tube assembly. But in any event, it’s a pretty bloody cool way to quickset the date! Best of all, all that style and eccentricity will only set you back around $750.

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The world of Super-Compressor divers, a profoundly influential late 1950s design innovation that continues to be used today, offers plenty of variety and choice, from the psychedelic to the downright elegant. Continue reading

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F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain — Results & aftermath

In desert thriller Hamilton holds off charging Raikkonen for 4th straight win; Rosberg has late off under fire from Kimi, settles for 3rd

In a thrilling battle between Mercedes and hard charging Ferrari, Lewis Hamilton was able to come home for the win in Bahrain even as his breaks began to fail, his fourth straight victory to start the season and an astounding 10th Grand Prix win from the last 11 races. The laps ran out before Kimi Raikkonen’s onrushing Ferrari could catch Hamilton’s Silver Arrow and the Finnish former champ had to settle for 2nd, albeit his first podium since returning to the Scuderia last year. The Iceman had an excellent race and once again it seemed that the strategists on the pit wall for Ferrari somewhat outsmarted Mercedes. Ferrari split their tire strategy between Sebastian Vettel and Raikkonen, and Kimi was able to do a long, very effective middle stint on the harder medium tires. That enabled him to finish on the softer, faster options and take the fight to the two Mercedes in front who were, like Vettel, both on the harder compound. When Rosberg had brake woes of his own while being hounded by the Iceman on the penultimate lap and went skidding off track, Raikkonen was able to pounce. He wrested 2nd place from the German contender and brought joy to the hearts of all of those who love the famed Prancing Horse of Maranello even if he didn’t have the time to really have a go at Hamilton for the win.

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Kimi’s teammate Sebastian Vettel had a bit of a ragged race and struggled to keep his SF15-T securely under him throughout. In the end the German former 4-time World Champion was forced to make an extra pit stop for a new front wing after damaging his original by running wide through gravel and the rumble strips while dicing with a fired up Rosberg. That consigned Vettel to battling it out with Williams’ Valtteri Bottas for the rest of his run and he was unable to pass the talented Finnish up-and-comer. Bottas held on for an excellent 4th for his and Williams’ best placing of the year and Vettel had to settle for what must have seemed a disappointing P5 after making the podium in the first three Grand Prix.

Daniel Ricciardo drove a solid race to boost struggling team Red Bull’s morale and grab a solid 6th place. But characteristic of their season, even that strong points run was not without some bad news, as Ricciardo’s engine expired in rather spectacular fashion while taking the checkered flag. Continue reading

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F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain — Qualifying results

Hamilton’s Mercedes still tops the time sheets but Ferrari for real and gaining as Vettel out-qualifies Rosberg again

For a moment during Q2 in Bahrain on Saturday it appeared that Mercedes was sandbagging the field, holding something back only to blow everyone away and again prove their untouchable dominance. But while Lewis Hamilton ‘s Silver Arrow remained the car and driver to beat, claiming his remarkable 4th straight Pole to start the season, Ferrari proved that they are genuinely up for the fight with Sebastian Vettel outpacing Hamilton’s teammate Nico Rosberg to seize 2nd on the grid for Sunday’s race. After last week’s excuse-making whinging during the post race press conference for his second best performance respective to his dominant teammate and rival, Rosberg must’ve been absolutely muttering to himself after Q3. Because not only will he have to deal with Vettel in front of him but he will likely find himself harassed from behind by the other Prancing Horse of Kimi Raikkonen, who took P4 and seems to have found his good form again in this year’s vastly improved model. One thing’s for certain: the opening lap tomorrow should be very interesting at the least and perhaps even completely fraught and frantic as those four blokes jockey for an edge. But somehow I reckon Hamilton will sail away from the mayhem behind him and the others will be left to pick up the positions from second on down. That is if Vettel doesn’t shove the Englishman straight off the track on the front straight.

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Williams again showed decent Qualifying pace but it remains to be seen if they can manage their tires well enough in a Grand Prix to return to the podium after their terrific 2014 season. Valtteri Bottas drove an excellent Q3 fast lap to pip teammate Felipe Massa for P5 by less than half a second. Daniel Ricciardo gave Red Bull some hope after teammate Daniil Kvyat was bounced out of Q1 with power plant gremlins. The Aussie ace was able to grab P7 with a gutsy fast lap that was just an eyelash behind Massa. Likewise, Nico Hulkenberg broke through for troubled Force India for the first Top 10 starting position for the team this year: the excellent German driver will start P8 on Sunday. Rookie Carlos Sainz out-qualified his 17-year-old teammate Max Verstappen in P9 and Romain Grosjean grabbed P10 for up-and-down Lotus.

McLaren had a Jekyll and Hyde weekend with Fernando Alonso’s Honda-powered MP4-30 showing dynamic improvement from the beginning of the season to come home P14. But Jenson Button’s car was plagued by electronic issues throughout Friday practice and they bit him again  today when he failed to complete a qualifying lap. The English former champion will start dead last and hope he can fight his way through the field and at least finish the race. Finally, Sauber’s Cinderella start may be about to strike midnight, as Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson could do no better than P12 and P13. But that’s Formula 1 — if you’re not improving race to race you’re going backwards.

Top 10 Qualifiers for the Bahrain Grand Prix:

Pos No Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Laps
1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:33.928 1:32.669 1:32.571 16
2 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:34.919 1:33.623 1:32.982 12
3 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:34.398 1:33.878 1:33.129 16
4 7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:34.568 1:33.540 1:33.227 15
5 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:34.161 1:33.897 1:33.381 16
6 19 Felipe Massa Williams 1:34.488 1:33.551 1:33.744 16
7 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:34.691 1:34.403 1:33.832 15
8 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:35.653 1:34.613 1:34.450 15
9 55 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:35.371 1:34.641 1:34.462 18
10 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:35.007 1:34.123 1:34.484 20

 

Complete Qualifying results available via Formula1.com.

Tomorrow’s day-into-night race in the desert at Bahrain International Circuit begins at a very civilized 11AM here on the East Coast of the US and can be seen live on NBCSN. Ferrari is getting closer to be sure but do they really have the race pace to grab another win over King Lewis & Mercedes and pull the upset like Vettel did in Malaysia? Well worth finding out tomorrow so I hope to see you then!

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Tulum (and reflections on change)

So the reason for the radio silence is that my wife and I just got back from a very nice vacation in Tulum, Mexico, where we have been so many times it feels practically like a vacation home. This winter was brutal in the Northeast and we were in serious need of some warm, sunny beach time, which that magical place on the Mexican Caribbean never fails to provide.

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I first went to Tulum in the 90s just for a quick visit while staying at Isla de Mujeres off of Cancun and Playa del Carmen up the road (now a sprawling metropolis in its own right), mainly just to see the seaside Mayan ruins. That led to my wife and I going down there for spring vacations beginning in the early 2000s. We initially stayed at Cabanas Copal and then Azulik towards the north end of the resort area many times. At first there weren’t that many hotels in the whole Tulum strip and virtually none south of the small checkpoint down the road from Zamas, essentially only the Maya Tulum yoga spa right on the spit of the small bay, then a little down the road/beach there was Posada Margherita, the original Tulum “destination” restaurant run by some charming Italian ex-pats with help from some very sandy dogs, and just a few other small places scattered on the beach along accessible by dirt road. Hemingway on the beach — which despite the name does not have a real bar! — and El Tábano, on the inland side of the road and still serving up wonderful Mexican comfort food cooked up by a troop of hard working abuelas, were some of the last restaurants and hotels that far south, not including a few exotic outliers tucked into the palms on the beach and in the jungle.

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This time we stayed at the very reasonable and good Coco Tulum Hotel on that once-sparsely developed southern part. But now, after countless fashion photo shoots and ad campaigns, as well as travel write-ups in pretty much every major publication in the US and abroad, that southern strip between the checkpoint and the Sian Ka’an Biosphere is packed back-to-back with places to stay and eat. Due to the ease of travel from the East Coast (it’s about a three and a half hour flight to Cancun from New York and then about an hour and a half drive down to Tulum) and the magic of the name “Tulum”, snowbirds flock there in ever increasing numbers. Thankfully, it never feels crowded or overpopulated on the beach side because it is so long and the resorts all have their own large sectors. But inland you find that it is absolutely hopping. It’s startling to see tattooed hipsters from Brooklyn and well to do people from all over the world, as well as the traditional backpackers, jamming the paved roads and pathways of what used to be a rutted trail unsuitable for bicycles. There’s even a must-try restaurant, Hartwood, where people line up for dinner reservations in the early afternoon as if it were Per Se in Manhattan. I hear great things about it but there’s no way I’m spending my vacation trying to make the scene in what is to me an escape from all that sort of pretentious jive. Not that there’s anything wrong with it…

The Bay at Zamas at sunset

The Bay at Zamas at sunset

In fact, as it’s turned out with the way the southern sector has been (over) developed, it’s the northern “town” section that’s most like it was a decade ago. Continue reading

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2015 F1 Grand Prix of China — Results & aftermath

Hamilton dominates for Mercedes in China leaving Rosberg a disgruntled 2nd; Vettel strong again for Ferrari in 3rd

Lewis Hamilton sailed to victory on Sunday after a dominating race weekend in China as Mercedes put the sting of their Malaysia defeat at the hands of Ferrari and Seb Vettel in the rearview mirror. Winning at the Shanghai circuit for a record 4th time, the English points leader and defending World Champion looked miles ahead of the rest of the field: he started from Pole, got away to an aggressive start that put teammate and rival Nico Rosberg decisively behind him and then managed the race from the front for a seemingly effortless win. With Rosberg taking 2nd place about the only thing that did not go according to script for Mercedes were their number two driver’s gripes in the post-race news conference that Hamilton had been deliberately slow and so forced him back into dicing with Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari rather than competing for the win. Truth be told Rosberg’s words sounded like a man desperate to regain an edge after being thoroughly dominated by Hamilton at the end of last season and into the first three races of 2015. It simply doesn’t seem that Rosberg has the pace — or the psychological fortitude after watching last year’s title hopes slip away — to threaten his supremely confident teammate anymore.

Vettel was rather fortunate to grab the last place on the podium because, while he drove a typically strong race, his Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen was actually catching him up as the laps wound down. But a Safety Car brought out by hard luck Toro Rosso rookie Max Verstappen’s on-track engine failure on Lap 54 insured that the race would finish under yellow and that Vettel & Raikkonen’s positions were fixed. Nonetheless, it was encouraging to see the Finnish former champion, who had started from 6th on the grid, begin to really get to grips with the performance of his SF15-T, blowing by both Williams early in the race and bringing the fight to Vettel at the end. If Ferrari’s win two weeks ago in Malaysia was probably more of a fortunate victory rather than a true challenge to Mercedes dominance there could at least be the spectacle of a good intra-team rivalry brewing at the Scuderia going forward.

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Further back in the top 10, Williams provided more evidence that despite their Mercedes power they have not been able to match Ferrari’s improvements so far this season. Continue reading

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2015 F1 Grand Prix of China — Qualifying results

Mercedes roars back in China: Hamilton seizes Pole, Rosberg 2nd; Vettel strong again for Ferrari to grab 3rd on the grid

Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton reasserted their authority in China on Saturday, with the English reigning World Champion and points leader laying down a blistering qualifying lap for Pole for Sunday’s race that no other challenger could match. After Ferrari’s Malaysian upset two weeks ago that saw the Mercedes brain trust ruing tire strategy and questioning their overall performance the Silver Arrows were back to their untouchable ways, with Nico Rosberg a mere four one-hundredths behind Hamilton but nearly .8 ahead of previous Grand Prix winner Sebastian Vettel’s Prancing Horse. While fans and pundits had hoped Ferrari’s impressively improved form heralded the beginning of a true two-team battle for the Constructors’ Championship it seems more likely now that Malaysia was the exception not the rule.

The two Mercedes-powered Williams of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas struggled with handling at times but not flat out pace and claimed P4 and P5 respectively. That split the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, who also appeared to have a hard time holding on to his car, away from his faster teammate and left the Finn settling for 6th on the grid. Daniel Ricciardo had a good run for troubled Red Bull, taking a strong P7. But as if to reinforce the RB-11’s vulnerabilities, his teammate Daniil Kvyat was plagued by rear brake and ERS issues and was out in Q2. The young Russian will start a lowly P12. Romain Grosjean had a strong performance for Lotus with a P8, again showing that the team has the pace to compete for points if not quite the reliability or consistency from their drivers (Pastor Maldonado was out in Q2 at P11). The two Saubers of Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson continued to show that they had inherited the title of “little team that could” from scuffling Force India and rounded out the Top 10 with P9 and P10 respectively.

Despite showing significant improvement over the each of the first three race weekends, the McLarens of Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso still could not make it out of Q1. They will start at the back of the field in P17 and 18 ahead of only the two hapless Manor-Marussia cars.

Top 10 Qualifiers here:

Pos No Name Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Laps
1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:38.285 1:36.423 1:35.782 12
2 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:38.496 1:36.747 1:35.824 12
3 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:37.502 1:36.957 1:36.687 17
4 19 Felipe Massa Williams 1:38.433 1:37.357 1:36.954 15
5 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:38.014 1:37.763 1:37.143 15
6 7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:37.790 1:37.109 1:37.232 17
7 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:38.534 1:37.939 1:37.540 18
8 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:38.209 1:38.063 1:37.905 20
9 12 Felipe Nasr Sauber 1:38.521 1:38.017 1:38.067 16
10 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:38.941 1:38.127 1:38.158 15

 

Complete qualifying results available at Formula1.com.

Tomorrow’s race is another overnighter here on the East Coast and airs live on NBCSN at 2AM. Let’s see if anyone has anything for Hamilton and Mercedes. I tend to doubt it.

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Gorgeous Lady of the Week — Verena Wriedt

Our latest goddess comes to us from Germany and to my attention via Graham. Like many Americans, I had never heard of the enchanting Verena Wriedt and it was certainly my loss. But G took pity on my ignorance and pointed me towards a broadcast of the German Touring Car series, aka the DTM, a sort of Formula 1 for the Big 3 German automakers and their top sedans. And there was Verena doing superb work reporting from the pits.

Ms. Wriedt at her day job

Ms. Wriedt working her day job

Not only is the fetching 40 year old perfectly fluent in English with just the barest hint of a sexy accent but, at the risk of pointing out the very obvious, the camera absolutely loves the blond beauty.

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Combining readily apparent smarts and quick wits with an upbeat and humorous approach to interviewing her subjects, it’s clear that if the sports networks here in the States were wise they would do well to import Ms. Wriedt and let her work her magic on American television.

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In fact, she got her master’s in broadcast journalism from Emerson College in Boston — magna cum laude, no less — so the lovely lass from Wiesbaden is already familiar with the American scene as well as the European one. Further adding to her international credentials as a true woman of the word, she’s also lived and studied in the Philippines and in England.

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It’s easy to envision Verena covering not just motorsports but also, say, the Olympics, equestrian events, big time skiing and sailing and even fashion if only some network honcho makes the obvious move to lure her away from the DTM. Because with that face, those brains and that talent, the sky’s the limit.