Thursday, 17 March 2011

The Rickety Ladder to Formula One.

A couple of months back, I wrote an entry about how Paul Di Resta was coming into Formula One from a different route by joining from the DTM ranks. Recently, I've been thinking about the various different rookies who'd entered the series from the more traditional single seater ladder. I have to admit, part of this line of thought has come because a couple of Formula 3 Drivers have suddenly started following me on Twitter.

It got me thinking about how the single seater feeder series, from Formula Ford right up to GP2 are bringing through some rookie drivers who never seem quite prepared for Formula One. Now, there is a very distinct ladder to the single seater pantheon, and at each stage, supposedly it is the drivers talent and ability that allows them to attract sponsors and ascend to the next level. It's like a pyramid of drivers, with the number of available seats decreasing at each level. This is, to be fair, the natural way of dispersing a limited amount of seats to the drivers who deserve them - HRT's policy of 'the guy with the most money drives' Non-withstanding.

So, with this filtering process and the amount of seats available, why does it seem that so many rookies coming through struggle quite so badly with the leap to Formula One? We've seen proof that these guys are talented. Nico Hulkenberg was unassailable in GP2, Before last year Bruno Senna's reputation as a race driver was excellent (And was still good enough to get him a test role at Lotus-Renault), Lucas di Grassi was a Macau Grand Prix winner and Karun Chandok had visited podiums in GP2. Yet of all of the 2010 only rookies - Kamui Kobayashi having debuted in 2009 - only Vitaly Petrov has managed to hold onto his race seat for the 2011 season. All of them have credibility, so why did they struggle so much when they stepped up that final rung on the ladder into F1?

As we've established, these are credible drivers - and Kobayashi also had a hell of a year and was probably the most sensational rookie of all, despite being an also-ran in GP2, with his biggest prize in the feeder series being a GP2 Asia championship.

So, realistically, one has to point the finger of blame at the cars. We know there are talented drivers, championship-capable drivers, coming up the ladder, but the problem is that the ladder is composed entirely of single-make series.

Formula Ford uses the same specification of Chassis, although Mygale, Spectrum and Van Diemen all manufacture them. These Chassis are virtually identical in terms of design:

Formula 3 overwhelmingly uses the Dallara F3 chassis for all the various series, although again there is a small output from some other manufacturers.

And when you get above the F3 level, there is literally no diversity in the cars used: the GP3 and GP2 series, which support F1 races directly, all use exactly the same specification of Dallara Chassis:

And yet, when you get to Formula One, there is a different design of car for each team. From Red Bull to HRT, each car not only looks different, they perform differently, drive differently and react differently. From a level playing field, lower tier drivers who get the opportunity to step up to the ultimate stage are then handed a box of tools that is completely different to the team in the garage next to you. All of the drivers in the lower Formulae can change setups on their cars, but at the end of the day, it's still exactly the same car.

Furthermore, with this leap comes the extra pressure that comes from being a Formula One driver. In the lower formulae, most of the sponsors tend to be companies related to Motorsport, but F1 is big money. None of those teams can afford to have a driver who isn't performing, and consequently the rookies coming through seem to only have the one season to sink or swim. And whilst there are more rookies coming through, the transience of these drivers means that the age of the F1 field is increasing season by season.

So what's the solution? the obvious one would be to encourage competing chassis and manufacturers in the lower formulae - but the costs involved in developing the different cars, which would then be passed to the teams, prohibits this. In the current climate, keeping costs down for the different series is paramount - Formula Renault UK only had 11 drivers turn up for their pre-season test a couple of weeks ago, and there are worries that the costs of the series are starting to drive teams out of competing since Renault introduced to newer-spec car, and thats for a single-make national competition. Potentially, the way to encourage difference in driving ability is to do exactly what Force India are doing and look to different styles of series like DTM for their drivers - but this presents its own brand of problems, seeing as Touring Car racing is a completely different style to Single Seaters.

Truthfully, there is no real solution - the system we have now works, because at the end of the day teams will always need drivers. When one retires, there has to be another one to replace them. But perhaps, as a reader for Autosport suggested in a letter that we have none-championship F1 races as well as young driver tests. This could work, but would the F1 teams be willing to shoulder the costs of running their cars for very little reward?

It isn't a problem now, nor will it mean the death of Formula One - but Formula One will not benefit from an increasingly larger field of inexperienced drivers who have been unceremoniously dropped in the deep end.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011


Bex wins. her album is way better than mine. curse your musical taste, wife of mine!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Formula One: The Album.

So, Bex and I were just having a... Strenuous debate over the potential perfect Formula One soundtrack album. So, being the douchebag I am, I just had to throw out a challenge. Bex and I are both going to create our own perfect F1 album, and see who comes up with the goods. It'll be me, of course. But I like to give her a sporting chance.

So, the two ground rules:

There will be duplicate entries. Contrary to popular opinion, Bex and I do have some similar tastes, and some songs just resonate. And of course, The Chain is THE Formula One song.

The Album shall be thirteen songs in length.

So... Here we go:


1) Fleetwood Mac - The Chain.

Where else was this song going to go but as the first song on the album? It's been the BBC F1 intro for a long time, and I guarantee you that any F1 fan who hears that baseline will instantly perk up like a startled meerkat.

2) Steppenwolf - Born To Be Wild.

Does this really need any explanation? Better known as the theme tune from Easy Rider, there are very few better driving tunes, and this is a rev-up special.

3) Linkin Park - Bleed it out.

This is my 'three red lights tune.' The buildup to that second when the clutches engage, the accelerators get floored and the cars scream away in a cloud of rubber smoke.

4) 30 seconds to Mars - Kings and Queens.

Simply an awesome power tune, and great for a mid-race adrenaline burst.

5) Embrace - Ashes.

Another one thats associated with the 2009 season for me, and specifically Brawn GP's phoenix like rise to both championships.

6) Oasis - Stay Young.

Not Oasis' most rocky track, but definitely one that fits into the racing music category. It's rhythm just seems to fit.

7) The Killers - When you were young.

A nice, Growly rock tune that Bounces along at a good speed with a bass line that sounds like an engine going. Perfect F1 music.

8) Rage Against The Machine - Bulls On Parade.

One Bex and I agree on: This is Red Bull Racings signature tune for us now.

9) Chris Cornell - You Know My Name.

I have to admit, this one was a toss up between this and Live and Let Die, and this won for me. Also known as the theme tune from Casino Royale, like a lot of Bond theme tunes, it has that Action Movie Adrenaline feel.

10) Carly Simon - Nobody Does it Better.

This one is perfect for a champion montage. Perfect for slow motion highlights.

11) Queen - We are the Champions

What else? Really, this is one of those tunes that would simply have to be on this album. Especially since it's tradition that the winner of the Japanese Grand Prix sings it in the circuit Karaoke bar after the race.

12) Florence + The Machine - You've got the love.

This song will always be associated with the 2009 season for me, since it was used as the outro. It would make a very smooth driving song as well.

13) Alistair Griffin - Just Drive.

Bex pointed out that this isn't exactly a classic song, but to me thats not the point - it's a song that will always be irrevocably linked with Formula One, since it was used by the BBC for their highlight video:

I will admit, it may be more of a testament to the BBC Team's editing skills than the song itself, but its still says 'F1' to me. And, if nothing else, it deserves it's place here for getting Eddie Jordan's voice onto the Radio One top 40.


So, theres my perfect Formula One Album. Bex is going to do her own version, and if you want to comment with your own suggestions, feel free.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Bendanarama's alternative Motorsport Preview

SO, The Formula One seasons was Nearly upon us. Then It wasn't. Now it is again, so Yay!

But whilst every other blog, website and Twitter feed is blazing towards the F1 seasons with Bated Breath, I've decided to do an alternative Motorsport preview, hopefully pointing out some races you're missing out on.


The World Touring Car Championship is facing a difficult season, if we're honest. With SEAT Pulling out in 2010 and BMW throwing their toys out of the pram in 2011 (They didn't fancy adapting to new engine rules - in ANY touring car Series) The championship has been left with just two Works Manufacturers, four factory Chevrolet Cruze's and a single Factory Volvo. With the Chevrolet team riding high as champions, you could be forgiven for thinking that the blue boys are going to storm it.

That said, what this does do is open the field up for independent runners to really make a story of this season. All of the former Works SEAT Leon 2.0 Tdi's are now being run independently, as well as a handful of BMW 320si's - although the BMW field is arguably poorer without Andy Priaulx. But with the first race starting from a rolling start and the second from a traditional standing start, the Series is haphazard enough and full of enough Touring Car action - on Grand Prix Tracks no less - that you get some very good races. Last years championship was decided by poor stewarding, but I have high hopes for this year, even with the lack of factory entrants.

Where to watch.

Eurosport shows the races live, and will show the AutoGP support series races once they come into play at Monza. The first race of the season is this weekend from the Autódromo Internacional de Curitiba in Brazil.

Here's some highlights of last season for you:


Superleague Formula

Football And Motorsport. I want you to think about that for a second. Football, combined with roaring V12 Single Seater Formula cars on fat slick tyres racing at some truly awesome Tracks. The Cars all sound fantastic, and the Racing is usually very, very good. Last years championship went very much down to the wire, with Tottenham Hotspurs' Craig Dolby undoubtedly cursing the fact that the Beijing round was a non-championship race due to the street track lacking the necessary FIA license, and losing to Anderlecht's Davide Rigon by just two points. The Series also seems to be very stable, so none of the teams seem to be scrabbling round for budgets or settling for drivers of limited talent who are willing to pay for their seat. It isn't quite a stepping stone to F1 yet, but it very much could be in the future.

The Race uses a similar format to a football match, with two main races of 40-45 minutes with the second race as a reversed grid, and a "SuperFinal" five lap shootout, with the top six drivers from the weekend racing for a prize of €100,000. The races feature rolling starts that are delightfully haphazard, since the cars can overtake from the moment the poleman reaches the start/finish line.

Where to watch.

While you can watch the races on ESPN in the UK or, rather oddly, on Bloomberg possibly the best way is to take advantage of the live stream on the Championship's Website.

And to encourage your patronage, here's the opening moments of the first round of the 2010 championship at Silverstone:


FIA GT1 and GT3 Championships

Do I really need to sell this one to you? DB9's, Murcielago's Ford-GTs, Nissan GT-Rs, Corvettes and Maseratis go Head to Head on a packed grid in some of the best sportscar racing in the world. To top that, it's supported at the European fixtures by the GT3 series which features BMW Z4's, Audi R8s, and in the near future the McLaren MP4-12c. The only downside to this series is that is has robbed the Le Mans grid a bit, since the legendary 24 hour race is having to go without it's GT1 runners this year due to a fixture clash.

Where to watch.

Again, ESPN or Bloomberg show the races, with the series kicking off on the 27th March - the evening after F1's opening race in Australia in the morning. Some highlights of last years race at Silverstone:



And Last but not in any way least, the British Touring Car Championship.

Somewhat ironically, this national series is currently looking far stronger than the WTCC, with with at two strong manufacturer entries - Chevrolet Cruzes and Honda Civics - and a massive field of Independents with greater variety than the WTCC. Currently, as well as the BMW's and SEAT's of the world championship, the BTCC also features Protons Gen-2's, Chevrolet Lacetti's, Older Ford Focus STs, Vauxhall Vectras, Honda Integras, VW Golfs, Audi A4s, Toyota Avensis' and the new 'Global' Ford Focus. The Series has three races per weekend, as well as a full racecard of supports ranging from Formula Renault to the Clio Cup. Now in it's 54th year, the series is currently going to a new strength with it's new "Next-Generation Touring Car" rules opening the field up substantially.

Given the tight twisty nature of most British tracks, and that fact that a lot of the races tend to take place on the shorter variants of circuits, the panel bashing fun and close pack racing are a near constant.

Where to watch.

ITV4 currently shows the Entirity of BTCC race day, including all the support races. Here's some highlights from 2010!


Well, this is far from a complete list of whats available out there, but they're certainly an alternative to Formula One, and can often be a lot more fun and frolicky. All of these series are relatively easy to find, along with other like the various Le Mans series, Formula 2 and the various Formula 3 series around the world. Hell, even Indycar and NASCAR are becoming more available through streaming, so theres plenty of choice to tide you over both before and during the F1 season.


Sunday, 13 March 2011

My secret life as a renaissance courtesan, or how I came to love Assassins Creed Multiplayer.

I've been playing an awful lot of Assassins creed Multiplayer lately. One could almost say it's my latest obsession. I've developed this nasty habit of walking up to people in the middel of a crowd and suddenly puncturing various parts of their anatomy.

It's an incredibly fun experience.

When It's done right. What I have here is a brief guide to the groups of people on Assassins creed multiplayer who will Absolutely ruin your goddamn day.

The Sprinter.

On the scale of annoyance, the sprinter ranks pretty low. To be fair, what they do is more a sign of abject incompetence than anything else. What's scary is that you see these people running around with level 20-plus status. How, is beyond me, since the sprinter is characterised by running around in bloody circles, on the same route, apparently hoping that no-one will figure out what they're doing. Right up until the point someone stabs them in the Abdomen.

Defining characteristics: Running around like a headless chicken, in the vague hope that no-one else has ever played on the same map, ever.

How to deal with them: Stand in one place, then stab them in the face, while singing the 'chariots of fire' theme tune down the microphone.

The Mountaineer

The Mountaineer was apparently born on the snowy peaks of the Himalayas, hanging from a ledge. The Mountaineer scaled the face of Everest at the age of two, and dived off the top with a hang glider. Now, The Mountaineer has turned to his greatest challenge: Assassins Creed Multiplayer. But his strange upbringing has bred into him one horrifying fear - a complete and abject horror of ever being on street level. As a consequence of this debilitating phobia, he'll spend the entirety of every round up on the rooftops, surveying his supposed kingdom, daring you to climb into His Territory.

Defining characteristics: Constant use of the free running function, despite this leaving him completely exposed at all times. Occasionally in extreme cases, spending the entire round perched on top of a jump point pretending to be Batman.

How to deal with them: Stand at street level, select the hidden gun, target them, and shoot. Then listen to the rants over the Xbox voice channel.

The CODder.

Anyone whose ever been on XBox Live Know's the CODder. They barely need mentioning. They're the guys who think all games should work exactly like the Call Of Duty Franchise. If you beat them, you're cheating. IF they beat you, they're the greatest gamer who ever lived. One of these guys swore at me for a solid minute for "Stealing his Kill." Despite the fact that he was half a map away. And it wasn't his target.

Defining characteristics: The Incessant ability to NEVER SHUT THE FUCK UP. Constant uses of variants of the word's "Fag", "Homo", "Queer," and anything else they can use to try and make themselves look tough in the overwhelming evidence of their own repressed homosexuality.

How to deal with them: Shit, if I knew how to get rid of these bell-ends, I'd have told the world by now. For the moment, I'll settle for using the mute button. On a note one of these guys declared that people who use the female characters are "Kinda Homo."


So, there's a small sample of the wonderful people awaiting you in Assassins creed. Of course, like any multiplayer game, there are a ton of awesome people as well. You'll meet plenty of folks who play the game properly, and actually score a metric ton of points doing so. Honestly, I've never had so much fun being Poisoned, stabbed, shot, slammed, and thrown from rooftops onto my head. I'll see you in Wanted. But you won't see me until I stab you in the neck.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Why I prefer Nerf Now to Ratfist.

Since my blog got a ton of hits last night from a two sentence review, I felt I should clarify something. I do not think Ratfist is a bad piece of work. I think it's a brilliantly drawn comic, with writing that just isn't my cup of tea.

A commenter yesterday seemed very offended that I dared to give Nerf Now a ton of praise in comparison to Ratfist. You want to know the reason why?

Because at 8:30 in the morning when I feel crappy and I'm building up to go to work, Nerf Now makes me smile in a way Ratfist doesnt.

Nuff said.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Grieving is okay, but don't exploit it for cheap fame + Webcomics!

Annoyance of the moment:

TNA's Jeremy Borash apparently tells a fan he hopes his whole family dies on twitter.

As you can see from's report, apparently the guy was very upset because his parent actually were dead.

A few points though:

Yes, JB is out of order if he did send this message. I don't deny that - it's an extraordinarily douchebaggy thing to do, even if he had no way of knowing the guys family were dead.

However, apparently JB saying this makes it okay for the dude to send obnoxious messages to Dixie Carter on Twitter (who, in my opinion, does a hell of a lot more to ingratiate herself to fans in the UK than WWE does). two wrongs do not make a right.

Mostly what annoys me though is this guy talking about how upset he is Whilst running straight to wrestling news sites to get himself some face time. As I mentioned in a previous blog, I lost my dad last year. If someone in TNA insulted my Dad, my first impulse would not be "I'll run to the new sites to tell people about this!" it would be "I'll make a formal complaint to This guys employer."

Of course the dude had ruled that out by being a little douchebag towards Dixie Carter in the first place, hadn't he.

Now, I'm not saying he isn't still hurting over the loss of his parents. I looked up his twitter accountand noticed that he lost them back in 2005 - I know that I'm still hurting eight months later just as much as I did back in August, because it doesn't really go away. frankly, I think this is why this annoy me - I certainly wouldn't use my Dad's death to get fifteen minutes of fame on wrestling news sites.

Now, a webcomics round-up!

Nerf Now: I love this webcomic, I really do. It's one of the few gaming comics thats stayed true to it's roots, the art is highly entertaining and the references are fun. Unlike Ctrl-Alt-Del for example it hasn;t just descended into the silly escapades of the authors own avatar - primarily because the TF2 characters are already silly. The author is a little bit of a PC-supremacist and seems to swing between amiable guy and the worst kind of gamer nerd. The comic, however is awesome.

As is Manly guys doing Manly things. The adventures of people working in an employment agency for overly-macho video game and movie characters. IT is as awesome as it sounds. Which is fucking very.

Ratfist, however, I could take or leave, to be honest. It's brilliantly drawn, but the writing does nothing for me, and I find the characters bloody irritating.