Wednesday, 31 October 2012
"In Formula One, they have checklists, databases, and they have well-defined processes for doing things, and we don't really have any of those things in health care."
Michael Schumacher was given a round of applause by the assembled media after he finished the prepared statement with which he announced his second retirement from Formula 1 at the Japanese Grand Prix on Thursday.
It was a mark of the respect still held for Schumacher and a reflection of the appreciation for what was clearly an emotional moment for the man whose seven world titles re-wrote the sport's history books.
Schumacher stumbled a couple of times as he read off the paper in front of him and once, as he mentioned the support of his wife Corinna, his voice almost cracked.
Once through the statement and on to a question-and-answer session with the journalists, he was more comfortable, relaxed in a way he has so often been since his comeback, and so rarely was in the first stint of his career.
Schumacher's retirement from the Singapore Grand Prix had a familiar look to it. Photo: Getty
The Schumacher who returned to Formula 1 in 2010 with Mercedes was quite different from the one who finished his first career with Ferrari in 2006.
The new Schumacher was more human, more open and more likeable.
As he put it himself on Thursday: "In the past six years I have learned a lot about myself, for example that you can open yourself without losing focus, that losing can be both more difficult and more instructive than winning. Sometimes I lost this out of sight in the earlier years."
Most importantly, though, the new Schumacher was nowhere near as good.
In every way possible, there is no other way to view his return to F1 than as a failure.
When he announced his comeback back in December 2009, he talked about winning the world title. Instead, he has scored one podium in three years, and in that period as a whole he has been trounced by team-mate Nico Rosberg in terms of raw pace. In their 52 races together, Schumacher has out-qualified his younger compatriot only 15 times.
It is ironic, then, that there have been marked signs of improvement from Schumacher this season. In 14 races so far, he has actually out-qualified Rosberg eight-six.
And although Rosberg has taken the team's only win - in China earlier this year, when he was demonstrably superior all weekend - arguably Schumacher has been the better Mercedes driver this year.
Schumacher has suffered by far the worst of the team's frankly unacceptable reliability record and would almost certainly have been ahead of Rosberg in the championship had that not been the case. And he might even have won in Monaco had not a five-place grid penalty demoted him from pole position.
That penalty, though, was given to Schumacher for an accident he caused at the previous race in Spain, when he rammed into the back of Williams driver Bruno Senna having misjudged his rival's actions.
That was only one of four similar incidents in the last 18 months that have crystallised the impression that the time was approaching where Schumacher should call it a day.
It is unfortunate timing, to say the least, that the last of those incidents happened less than two weeks ago in Singapore, almost as if it was the straw that broke the camel's back.
That was not the case, of course. Schumacher has been vacillating on his future for months and in the end his hand was forced. Mercedes signed Lewis Hamilton and Schumacher was left with the decision of trying to get a drive with a lesser team or quitting. He made the right call.
His struggles since his return have had an unfortunate effect on Schumacher's legacy. People within F1 - people with the highest regard for his achievements - have begun to question what went before.
There have always been question marks over his first title with Benetton in 1994, given the highly controversial nature of that year. Illegal driver aids were found in the car, but Benetton were not punished because governing body the FIA said they could find no proof they had been used.
But since 2010 people have begun to look back at the dominant Ferrari era of the early 2000s, when Schumacher won five titles in a row, and begun to wonder aloud just how much of an advantage he had.
It was the richest team, they had unlimited testing and bespoke tyres. Did this, people have said, mean Schumacher was not as good as he had looked?
If you watched him during his first career, though, you know how ridiculous an assertion this is. Schumacher in his pomp was undoubtedly one of the very greatest racing drivers there has ever been, a man who was routinely, on every lap, able to dance on a limit accessible to almost no-one else.
Sure, the competition in his heyday was not as deep as it is now, but Schumacher performed miracles with a racing car that stands comparison with the greatest drives of any era.
Victories such as his wet-weather domination of Spain in 1996, his incredible fightback in Hungary in 1998, his on-the-limit battle with Mika Hakkinen at Suzuka that clinched his first title in 2000 were tours de force. And there were many more among that astonishing total of 91 victories.
So too, as has been well documented, was there a dark side to Schumacher, and it was never far away through his first career.
Most notoriously, he won his first world title after driving Damon Hill off the road. He failed to pull off a similar stunt in 1997 with Jacques Villeneuve. And perhaps most pernicious of all, he deliberately parked his car in Monaco qualifying in 2006 to stop Fernando Alonso taking pole position from him.
Those were just the most extreme examples of a modus operandi in which Schumacher seemed often to act without morals, a man who was prepared to do literally anything to win, the sporting personification of Machiavelli's prince, for whom the ends justified the means.
Those acts continue to haunt Schumacher today, and even now he still refuses to discuss them, won't entertain the prospect of saying sorry.
"We are all humans and we all make mistakes," he said at Suzuka on Thursday. "And with hindsight you would probably do it differently if you had a second opportunity, but that's life."
He was given a second opportunity at F1, and he took it because in three years he had found nothing to replace it in his life.
His self-belief persuaded him that he could come back as good as he had been when he went away, but he learnt that time stands still for no man.
He has finally been washed aside by the tide of youth that with the arrival of Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen towards the end of his first career already seemed to be replacing one generation with the next.
It seems appropriate in many ways that the agent for that was Hamilton, the man who many regard as the fastest driver of his generation.
That, after all, is what Schumacher was, as well as one of the very greatest there has ever been. And nothing that has happened in the last three years can take that away.
One of these models is called the Beetle "Beach Battle-Cruiser" by European Car Magazine. The surf-inspired Beetle has everything you need to make your day at the beach run as smoothly as possible. It comes with all the amenities for weekend runs in the sand, including a roof rack where you can place surfboards and other beach paraphernalia.
The California-looking Bug also gets a slew of exterior updates, including a unique body kit by FMS Automotive that has a deployable shower system. You read that right: this Beetle has its own shower. Moving into more salient upgrades, the Beetle Beach Battle-Cruiser also received a new set of 19" CustomFuchs Performance wheels wrapped in Continental Extreme Contact DW tires and a revamped interior with Katzkin leather seats featuring a midnight black color with matching military green suede inserts.
The Beetle Beach Battle-Cruiser also comes with a performance upgrade, which isn’t all that surprising considering the nature of the event it’s going to. Revo Technik took the lead in this front, adding its own turbocharger into the Beetle’s 2.5-liter, five-cylinder engine. With the turbocharger, as well as the addition of a new intake and exhaust system, as well as the cursory software upgrade, the Beetle Beach Battle-Cruiser is now capable of producing a mouth-watering 400 horsepower.
400 ponies on a Beetle? Sign us up!
gallery: 2012 Volkswagen Beetle
As Sebastian Vettel put down his winner’s trophy after holding it up in celebration on the Korean Grand Prix podium, Fernando Alonso tapped him on the back and reached out to shake his hand. It was a symbolic reflection of the championship lead being handed from one to the other.
After three consecutive victories for Vettel and Red Bull, the last two of which have been utterly dominant, it does not look as though Alonso is going to be getting it back.
Alonso will push to the end, of course, and he made all the right noises after the race, talking about Ferrari “moving in the right direction” and only needing “a little step to compete with Red Bull”.
“Four beautiful races to come with good possibilities for us to fight for the championship,” he said, adding: “Now we need to score seven points more than Sebastian. That will be extremely tough but we believe we can do it.”
Sebastian Vettel won the Korean GP by finishing ahead of team-mate Mark Webber and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso (left). Photo: Reuters
Indeed, a couple of hours after the race, Alonso was quoting samurai warrior-philosophy again on his Twitter account, just as he had in Japan a week before.
"I've never been able to win from start to finish,” he wrote. “I only learned not to be left behind in any situation."
Fighting against the seemingly inevitable is his only option. The facts are that the Ferrari has been slower than the Red Bull in terms of outright pace all year, and there is no reason to suspect anything different in the final four races of the season.
Vettel’s victory in Korea was utterly crushing in the manner of so many of his 11 wins in his dominant 2011 season. The Red Bull has moved on to another level since Singapore and Vettel, as he always does in that position, has gone with it.
Up and down the pit lane, people are questioning how Red Bull have done it, and a lot of attention has fallen on the team’s new ‘double DRS’ system.
This takes an idea introduced in different form by Mercedes at the start the season and, typically of Red Bull’s design genius Adrian Newey, applies it in a more elegant and effective way.
It means that when the DRS overtaking aid is activated – and its use is free in practice and qualifying – the car benefits from a greater drag reduction, and therefore more straight-line speed than its rivals.
Vettel has been at pains to emphasise that this does not help Red Bull in the race, when they can only use the DRS in a specified zone when overtaking other cars. But that’s not the whole story.
The greater drag reduction in qualifying means that the team can run the car with more downforce than they would otherwise be able to – because the ‘double DRS’ means they do not suffer the normal straight-line speed deficit of doing so.
That means the car’s overall lap time is quicker, whether in race or qualifying. So although the Red Bull drivers can’t use the ‘double DRS’ as a lap-time aid in the actual grands prix, they are still benefiting from having it on the car.
And they are not at risk on straights in the race because the extra overall pace, from the greater downforce, means they are far enough ahead of their rivals for them not to be able to challenge them, let alone overtake them. As long as they qualify at the front, anyway.
It’s not all down to the ‘double DRS’, though. McLaren technical director Paddy Lowe said in Korea: “They appear to have made a good step on their car. I doubt that is all down to that system. I doubt if a lot of it is down to that system, actually. You’ll probably find it’s just general development.”
BBC F1 technical analyst Gary Anderson will go into more details on this in his column on Monday. Whatever the reasons for it, though, Red Bull’s rediscovered dominant form means Alonso is in trouble.
While Red Bull have been adding great chunks of performance to their car, Ferrari have been fiddling around with rear-wing design, a relatively small factor in overall car performance.
They have admitted they are struggling with inconsistency between the results they are getting in testing new parts in their wind tunnel and their performance on the track, so it is hard to see how they will close the gap on a Red Bull team still working flat out on their own updates.
The Ferrari has proved adaptable and consistent, delivering strong performances at every race since a major upgrade after the first four grands prix of the year.
But the only time Alonso has had definitively the quickest car is when it has been raining. It is in the wet that he took one of his three wins, and both his poles.
But he cannot realistically expect it to rain in the next three races in Delhi, Abu Dhabi and Austin, Texas. And after that only Brazil remains. So Alonso is effectively hoping for Vettel to hit problems, as he more or less admitted himself on Sunday.
How he must be ruing the bad breaks of those first-corner retirements in Belgium and Japan – even if they did effectively only cancel out Vettel’s two alternator failures in Valencia and Monza.
If anyone had reason on Sunday to regret what might have been, though, it was Lewis Hamilton, who has driven fantastically well all season only to be let down by his McLaren team in one way or another.
Hamilton, his title hopes over, wasted no time in pointing out after the race in Korea that the broken anti-roll bar that dropped him from fourth to 10th was the second suspension failure in as many races, and a broken gearbox robbed him of victory at the previous race in Singapore.
Operational problems in the early races of the season also cost him a big chunk of points.
Hamilton wears his heart on his sleeve, and in one off-the-cuff remark to Finnish television after the race, he revealed a great deal about why he has decided to move to Mercedes next year.
“It’s a day to forget,” Hamilton said. “A year to forget as well. I’m looking forward to a fresh start next year.”
In other words, I’ve had enough of four years of not being good enough, for various reasons, and I might as well try my luck elsewhere.
There was another post-race comment from Hamilton, too, that said an awful lot. “I hope Fernando keeps pushing,” he said.
Hamilton did not reply when asked directly whether that meant he wanted Alonso to win the title. But you can be sure that remark is a reflection of Hamilton’s belief that he is better than Vettel, that only Alonso is his equal.
Whether that is a correct interpretation of the standing of the three best drivers in the world, it will take more than this season to tell.
In the meantime, if Alonso and Ferrari are not to be mistaken in their belief that they still have a chance, “keeping pushing” is exactly what they must do. Like never before.
In the round-up: Ecclestone suggests France could join calendar ? CVC postpones F1 IPO ? Genii denies plan for Lotus sale
Tuesday, 30 October 2012
Jean Todt arives for Wednesday's hearing
?Whether you are for or against team orders, if the FIA could not back up its own rules and nail a competitor in a blatant case such as this the rule really does need reviewing. Perhaps Ferrari?s thinly-veiled threat to take the matter to the civil courts if they were punished too harshly scared the governing body, who as much as admitted the flimsiness of its rule."Paul Weaver, reporting for the Guardian in Monza, was in favour of the ruling which keeps alive Ferrari?s slim chances in an enthralling championship.
?The World Motor Sport Council was right not to ruin a compelling Formula One season by taking away the 25 points Alonso collected in Germany. That would have put him out of the five-man title race. But the council was widely expected to increase the fine and possibly deduct points from the team, as opposed to the individual. In the end, it could be argued that common sense prevailed. But the decision will dismay those who were upset by the way Ferrari handled the situation as much as anything else.?The Daily Mail's Jonathan McEvoy expressed outrage at the FIA tearing up its own rule book by allowing Ferrari to escape unpunished.
"Although the race stewards fined them �65,000 for giving team orders in July, the FIA World Motor Sport Council, to whom the matter was referred, decided not to impose any further punishment. It leaves the sport's rulers open to derision. It was, after all, their rule they undermined. In a statement, the WMSC said the regulation banning team orders 'should be reviewed'."
The way I feel at the moment, why stop? I do it because I enjoy it. And yesterday is gone. I don't care what happened yesterday. What else would I do? People retire to die. I don't get any individual pleasure because we don't win races or titles in this job. I'm like most business people. You look back at the end of the year and you see what you've achieved by working out how much money the company has made. That's it.
Monday, 29 October 2012
"In Formula One, they have checklists, databases, and they have well-defined processes for doing things, and we don't really have any of those things in health care."
Lewis Hamilton has come in for criticism
We admit to not being all that intrigued by the Fiat Bravo. Sure, it’s an affordable hatchback that looks pretty decent and has the corresponding performance qualifications to make it a nice, everyday ride, but for all the positive vibes of the Bravo, there’s very little about it that really jumps off the page. Well, except if Fiat decides to green light a production version of the just-introduced Bravo Xtreme Concept.
Looking the part of a Ford Focus ST conqueror, the Bravo Xtreme Concept is what we believe the Bravo should’ve looked like a long time ago. The aggressive body kit adds a level of attitude to the vehicle, particularly with the use of a new front bumper with its own large grille, as well as a pair of side vents, each with its own built-in LED. Over at the back, the Bravo Xtreme Concept also received some upgrades, particularly the use of a new bumper, its own LED taillights, the presence of two exhaust pipes, a pair of roof spoilers and diffuser, and a new set of two-tone alloy wheels.
Sound impressive, but the Bravo Xtreme Concept also has its fair share of interior digs, including a four individual seats, an updated dashboard, a new center console with screens integrated into the front seats’ headrests, and a new audio system from ASK.
Under its hood, the Bravo Xtreme Concept also received a rather interesting - and more powerful - engine: a 1.4-liter 16V T-Jet engine that produces an impressive 253 horsepower at 6,600 rpm and 245 lb/ft of torque at 5,000 rpm.
It’s not just not shabby in our books, it’s pretty downright impressive if you ask us.