Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Favourite F1 cars

I thought about doing this for a while and now I've decided to because why not, everyone likes a list of favourite things. This is based around F1 cars obviously. There may be a case of bias here as someone who has a favourite team, McLaren if you didn't know. However, you can appreciate cars from other teams. These cars are not necessarily championship-winning cars, they don't have to be.

Without further ado, in no particular order...

BrawnGP BGP 001

Well what can you say, you could make a movie about the story of BrawnGP, the team who rose from the ashes of Honda (rather ironic given recent events with Mercedes and McLaren) and almost never made it to the grid but went on to win both championships in its first and only season. The car itself was fabulous, it had an air of nostalgia about it with the minimal livery. It was fast too, with the shoehorned Mercedes-Benz engine in it, the BrawnGP 001 won seven out of the first nine races with Jenson Button behind the wheel, who became F1 Driver's Champion that year and also won the Constructor's Championship with teammate Rubens Barrichello. 

Interesting fact: Jenson Button himself owns the car, only three were made and Rubens used the spare one, as it was in his contract that he would get it if he became champion. There was a bit of an argument between Jenson and team buyers Mercedes, who said that he couldn't have it because he visited McLaren whilst still under contract. Jenson disputed this and in the end got the car. It was the oldest car on the grid when Jenson became champion.

McLaren MP4/13

The 1998 McLaren MP4/13 was a stunning car. In West colours and driven by Finland's Mika Hakkinen and Scottish chin master David Coulthard, the MP4/13 won both Championships with Mika winning his first World Championship, seeing off Ferrari and Michael Schumacher in the process. This was McLaren's first Constructor's Championship since 1991. The MP4/13 also holds the record at the Goodwood hillclimb. In 1999, Nick Heidfeld set the record at 41.6 seconds.

Lotus Type 72

The Lotus Type 72 is from an era when cars were carried over from one season to the next. The Type 72 was designed by Lotus founder Colin Chapman and powered by a Cosworth engine. In 1970 season, the Type 72 was introduced and helped Austrian Jochen Rindt lead the championship. However, during the Italian GP at Monza, Rindt was killed in a crash during qualifying. Emerson Fittipaldi was brought in and helped Lotus secure the Constuctor's Championship, and also Rindt the Driver's Championship, the first posthumous World Champion. In '71 the car struggled but in '72, with the now-iconic black and gold John Player Special livery, Fittipaldi won his first World Championship. 1973 saw more race wins and another Constructor's title, but retirements saw Fittipaldi lose his crown to Jackie Stewart before leaving for McLaren.

Williams FW25

The Williams BMW partnership was a strong one, and in 2003, was competing for the title. It didn't win, nothing could stop the all-conquering Ferrari team. The FW25 won four races with Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher. Marc Gene replaced Ralf at the Italian Grand Prix after being involved in a testing accident. The reason why I like this car is that Williams were at their best for some time and with BMW were the strongest challengers to Ferrari for a short time, along with McLaren-Mercedes. The FW25 got Williams to second in the Constructor's Championship in 2003.

McLaren MP4/6

1991 saw Ayrton Senna win his third and final Driver's Championship in the Honda-powered McLaren MP4/6. Senna won the first four races including his home race in Brazil before Nigel Mansell and Williams hit top form. Senna and McLaren held on to win both titles and was the last time McLaren and Honda won together, at least before they re-unite in 2015. Senna is one of the greats and it's easy to say that it was he and not the car that won but F1 is a team effort, McLaren and Honda worked hard to halt the Williams.

Williams FW14B

Speaking of which, Williams lost out to McLaren in '91 but a year later, broke the Woking-based team's dominance on F1, with mustache extraordinaire Nigel Mansell winning the Championship in some fashion. The Williams-Renault FW14B was so dominant that it was often two seconds a lap faster than the next car. Adrian Newey designed a truly remarkable car, so much so, that the FW15 was available but was never used. In total, the FW14 won 17 races in 32 and Mansell wrapped up the title in '92 by winning nine races out of 16.

This next car is probably my favourite F1 car ever...

McLaren MP4-20

2005 saw a close Championship between two teams, McLaren and Renault. Kimi Raikkonen was up against Fernando Alonso for the Driver's Championship  The McLaren MP4-20 was faster than the Renault R25 but the Mercedes-Benz engine was unreliable and cost McLaren both titles. The reason why I love this car so much was when not blowing up, Kimi was able to pull off some incredible displays, getting pole at Monza with a full tank of fuel before getting a 10 place grid drop because he changed his engine. Then there was Suzuka, where after qualifying 17th, stormed through the field to win the race. The MP4-20 is also notable for achieving the highest speed ever recorded for an F1 car during a race. At Monza, race winner Juan Pablo Montoya hit over 231mph when he won the race. The MP4-20 is a car that deserves to be remembered as a great F1 car.

And yes, the MP4-20 is the car in the blog background.

I think that's the list, there could be more but these are the top ones for me. I noticed there are no Ferrari's on the list. That's mostly because of the dominant Schumacher era which was a dull, red blur.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Different approach, same goal. Xbox One and PS4.

In case you didn't know somehow, Microsoft has finally lifted the lid on it's latest 'console', the Xbox One. Let's start by saying how much of a stupid name that is. Going from Xbox 360 to Xbox One just seems illogical and will cause confusion because people refer to the original Xbox as Xbox 1.

The Xbox One with the Kinect camera, which is mandatory to even function the damn thing.
Now, it was expected that Microsoft would take the 'own the living room' stance, which is focusing on media functionality as well as games. The problem with that is that you may end up focusing too much on things which no one cares about, or has limited availability. Guess what? Yep, many of the features Microsoft will be putting out will only be available to the US, at least initially. Things such as the Live TV, where you can see a TV guide or cable box, will only be able to be used in the US at launch. Also, something which wasn't mentioned was the fact that an HDMI supported receiver is needed to even use the functionality. Kind of shoots the Xbox One's mantra down doesn't it?

Most of the reveal conference was about TV, with the announcement of a Halo TV show with input from Steven Spielberg and a deal with the NFL, which I can't imagine will be huge deal outside of North America. Kinect was also a big focus and is coming with every system sold. With all the gesture and voice commands you can pull off, if the thing recognises them that is, then you will be able to control the Xbox One without pressing a single button. I guess Microsoft think that pressing buttons is hard.

Microsoft showcasing the Xbox One's interface, which looks very similar  to the one currently found on the Xbox 360.

Speaking of buttons, Microsoft did show the new controller which looks to be a cross between the original Xbox controller and the one including with the 360. It now has a rechargeable battery included and has 40 different features and changes. It can also be seen in the picture above.

There were games shown, but no live gameplay demos which is a bit odd. EA came on stage to announce a new game engine called Ignite and then proceed to show us footage of Madden, FIFA, NHL and UFC which I'm guessing very little was gameplay footage, if any at all. Also shown was Forza Motorsport 5, said to be representative of gameplay footage but I'm not so sure. Forza 5 is confirmed to be a launch title. Another game shown was Quantum Break, which is a new IP developed by Max Payne and Alan Wake creators Remedy. It was a teaser and more will be shown at E3 for sure.

Also unveiled was Call of Duty: Ghosts, which looks like Call of Duty. They talked about how the new consoles can bring the series forward but it looks eerily similar to what has come before. Activision did a comparison to Modern Warfare 3 and there are improvements but you have to remember that this game is coming out on the 360 and PS3 too so it won't be a massive improvement. It looks to be using the same old game engine too, which was first used with Quake 3 many moons ago.

To me, this looks like Microsoft trying to do something which is unnecessary since a lot of these features are novelties at best and don't improve the current products out there. Also, it's apparent that Microsoft are after an increasingly outdated vision, a vision where everyone and everything is surrounded by one large TV. Many households have multiple TVs, not to mention phones and tablets which can access the internet. It all seems a bit redundant.

Contrast this to the PS4 announcement, which didn't show a console but did show Sony's approach, games. It also showed that Sony has learned from the mistakes that it made with the PS3, with using much simpler architecture, the same as the Xbox One it should be pointed out, 8GB of GDDR 5 RAM, the Xbox One also has 8GB of RAM but it is the much slower GDDR 3 type.

It's clear Sony have focused on making the PS4 a games console, first and foremost. That might not seem much but when it's the gaming enthusiasts that are the first to buy your system this is important. Of course, Sony will have non-gaming features such as movie and TV streaming since the PS3 is the most used platform for Netflix and Blu-ray obviously. They sent out this message with live gameplay demos of new IPs Knack and DriveClub, a new Killzone in the form of Shadow Fall, inFamous Second Son. Third parties were represented with Watch_Dogs from Ubisoft, Destiny from Halo creators Bungie and a tech demo called Deep Down from Capcom, as well as appearances from Epic Games, Square Enix and Blizzard.

Killzone: Shadow Fall gameplay screenshot

No doubt both will show new games at E3 but it's the long game here. The 360 will have been out for around 8 years when the Xbox One launches and the PS3 will have been out for 7 years at the PS4 launch, or there about. It seems odd that Microsoft are focusing on something that is seemingly becoming less and less integral to how we consume media, whereas Sony is fulling embracing the multiplatform way of modern technology by bringing PlayStation to mobile devices through streaming by Gaikai, the company Sony acquired last year. At least, that's the vision. I mean, who wants to browse the internet in the corner of your TV screen when watching a movie? Microsoft thinks you do, while paying for Xbox Live Gold too no less, when you have a phone or tablet or even fridge (I'm not joking by the way) which connects to the internet already.

If all else fails, use this scientific graph to determine which is best. ;)

Monday, 25 March 2013

Snatching Defeat From the Jaws of Victory

McLaren. What is going on at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes? (they won't be called that for much longer)

McLaren had a pretty good end to the 2012 season. They won the last two races to end a mixed year, with the loss of Lewis Hamilton to the Mercedes works team. Now, we know that title sponsor Vodafone are ending their relationship with the team which began in 2007, the year Hamilton made his debut in F1. The reason for this is unclear but I do believe that Hamilton's exit swayed Vodafone. This sponsorship deal was big money to McLaren and losing that deal must be a blow. However, McLaren have announced that a replacement will announced on December 2nd and Hamilton's replacement, Sergio Perez, is backed by a company called Telmex. Telemex is part-owned by a man named Carlos Slim, who is the world's richest man, with a fortune of $73 billion. Can anyone say Telmex McLaren Honda?

As for Honda, well, as I've written in a previous post, are rumoured to be returning to F1 as an engine supplier, in 2015 if reports are accurate. If true, this would mean McLaren sticking with Mercedes next year. What this could mean is McLaren reverse engineering the Mercedes engine with Honda and finding out it's pros and cons. Mercedes have insisted that they will protect themselves from something like this but I'm not sure how they could stop it if McLaren do use them.

Back to this season, it has been, in a word, shambolic. McLaren have been painfully slow and all pre-season optimism has evaporated into thin air. This was surprising given their end of season form last year and the promise they showed at the first pre-season test. The problem is apparently the new push rod suspension system, which is similar to the one Ferrari had trouble with last season.

Sergio Perez driving the McLaren MP4-28.
Will McLaren fix this issue? Possibly. They have three weeks until the Chinese Grand Prix and should be spending it finding why the car is so slow compared to its nearest rivals. McLaren will recover from setbacks, it's in their history.

When Honda pulled out of F1 in the early 90s, after struggling with Cosworth and Peugeot, McLaren recovered. After losing the West sponsorship McLaren came back and they will after losing Vodafone, Mercedes and Hamilton. If they don't then Martin (I can't stop making excuses) Whitmarsh should be fired. Teams have a tendency of bouncing back after losing their Vodafone sponsorship anyway. In 2007, Ferrari's ex-McLaren man Kimi Raikkonen beat the dueling bitch-fest between Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton by 1 point. In the same year, Manchester United came back from 3 years of not winning the Premier League to reclaim their crown, after switching from Vodafone to AIG. Maybe McLaren can make it a hat-trick in 2014?

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Switching on the light

It's been a while but I want to come back and write something. I want  to write about ideas and how coming up with great ones can be a pain in the ass. Anyone can come up with ideas but either they're shit or they've already been done. Both seem common, in all kinds of media.

Take movies as an example, many movies you see releasing at the cinema these days aren't new ideas but ones done previously but with different character names and settings but have been tarted up with special effects and other things. This isn't new but a good example is Avatar, James Cameron's uber expensive cinematic showcase which uses to latest CGI technology to great effect, and profit, since Avatar is the highest grossing movie of all time. However, rip all of that away and what you get is an old narrative, one about mankind and it's selfishness and how it refuses to take others into consideration. How the protagonist, in this case Jake Sulley, is wrong about his views and his journey into seeing the other perspective on things. It also has the classic love story of two complete opposites who in no way should fall in love but they do. If you watch enough times to not be overawed by the visuals you can see that. Avatar is nothing special.

There is a point to this, my point is that coming up with ideas isn't just about the premise or the mechanics, it's just as much as the execution and how it looks at first glance. That's how most forms of entertainment exist today be it movies, TV shows, music and video games. Very few these days is truly original. Of course it's very hard to do something truly original but many don't even try to modify it and just throw something together and hope people like it enough for it to make money. That tends to be driver in a lot of this and also follow what is popular instead of trying to stand out.

As I've said I know it's hard to do something different but you can see what is out there and purposefully avoid doing that will go some way to not being seen as a cheap cash-in. I know how hard it is to come up with ideas myself. As in university I have to come up with an idea for a 30 minute script for a TV show/short movie. This was difficult as there's lot of things out which covers pretty much everything. We had to actually share our ideas in the class to everyone and as everyone was explaining their idea I couldn't help thinking that it had been done before for most. Some were original, like one which is about a girl who wants to bed the hottest girl in school. It got a laugh from the class and I have to admit, it is different. Also, I'm sure you can guess the gender of the person who came up with that.

As for my idea, well, I have to admit something now, I came up with it pretty much on the spot because I had nothing so I quickly scribbled something down. Now, I'm not going to tell you my idea at this moment because it hasn't been written as a script just a first draft of a synopsis which needs refining. I bet you're thinking how much of a cocktease I am after writing all of this for then not to share my supposed idea. I'll probably get accused for being a Jay from The Inbetweeners but I don't care, I have my idea and I'm going with it. Simples. My idea did get a laugh in the class too like the one I mentioned earlier but that wasn't intentional and it did surprise me a bit. My lecturer Anita likes the idea quite a bit and I should probably mention that she is a writer for Casualty, the BBC hospital drama.

This comes back to my original point, amazingly, anyone can up with an idea but whether it's something different or even good doesn't always matter. As proved by many of the popular, books, movies and other stuff. Complete shit sells, somehow.