Monthly Archives: September 2010

Cambridge Parkour

Fantastic Parkour from a couple of young freerunners (Kie Willis and Phil Dee) in Cambridge.

Why Michael Schumacher will never be back to his best

Top writing!


Why Michael Schumacher will never be back to his best
BBC Sport
By Mark Hughes

Having stood trackside at some stage of every grand prix weekend for the last decade and a bit, witnessed Schumacher at his peak and in his comeback, the visual evidence of the dimming of his skills is obvious.

In his Ferrari years, to see his first lap out of the pits through a corner such as Spa’s Pouhon was to witness awe-inspiring genius that left you barely comprehending how what you had just seen could be possible. He would commit totally to the blind exit, flat-in-top downhill entry corner, a down-change just after turning in and the car would be shuddering on the edge of adhesion, visibly faster than anything else – and Schumacher would make not a single further input because to do so would have sent the car off.

He would sit on this delicate knife-edge until the car was fully loaded up and pointed directly at the apex and then simply power his way out. To be able to sit immediately on this incredibly narrow balancing point was a skill beyond the reach of his rivals. It is now beyond him, too – see Schumacher in 2010 and he looks nothing like this.

Sure, the Mercedes is way less competitive than most of his Ferraris were but do not forget he produced regular displays of genius in the outclassed Ferraris of 1996 or 2005. Watching him around the Singapore streets, he looked much as he has done all year. He can carry a lot of commitment and momentum into the entry of a corner, just like he used to, but between the turn-in point and the apex he is wrestling with the car, rather than feeling and anticipating it the way he used to.

There are more frequent displays of his raw car control than before – precisely because he is not ahead of the car, not anticipating the way he used to but simply reacting to it. To the untrained eye it looks impressive but actually it is a signal of lack of feel – in much the same way that Vitaly Petrov, say, tends to look more spectacular than the much faster Renault team-mate Robert Kubica. Very rarely were two consecutive Schumacher runs through a Singapore corner the same last weekend.

Schumacher says it is to do with how the gripless control Bridgestone tyres do not allow him the front-end grip to be able to drive in his natural way. There is a logic to this. With a grippy front end, he would previously get the car pointed early at the apex using his delicate feel to transfer the weight under braking and cornering, pivoting the car around so it changed direction early, with the minimum of steering lock. The less steering lock, the less speed-sapping front-tyre scrub, the earlier you can get the car pointed at the apex, the earlier you can get on the power. These tyres do not allow you to drive in that way.

But in the past Schumacher has adapted brilliantly to understeering cars. He used to adapt his style corner by corner, lap by lap, to whatever was appropriate. He was quite brilliant, for example, in how he could adopt a very aggressive style on his first lap out of the pits to get the tyres quickly up to temperature, then adopt a totally different style as the rubber came up to its correct working range.

Schumacher is keen to try the 2011 Pirelli control tyres, especially on next year’s car. Should that combination give him the front end he says he needs, would the magic return? It would surely improve his performance but why would it see him return to his previous level?

The driving style was a mere expression of a level of feel and balance – a miraculous combination of inner ear sensitivity to lateral accelerations and the co-ordination of that with his limbs – that was on a different level to anyone else’s. His 2010 performances have revealed that sensitivity is dulled now and that his adaptability is not what it was. If he cannot be what he once was, could he bring himself to continue regardless?

Best looking women in sport

I like the pole vaulter.

The 50 Hottest Women of Sports
February 6th, 2008

Similar, but video.

Red Bull still the car to beat

Fascinating discussion of circuits, aerodynamics, and Red Bull’s big advantage this year. For that reason I agree with Brundle that Hamilton has been driver of the season thus far.


Red Bull still the car to beat
Mark Hughes

In Hungary, the Red Bull was 1.3 seconds a lap faster than the field. Then, world motorsport governing body the FIA increased the front wing load test and at Spa and the Red Bull was no faster than the McLaren.

Therefore, the reasoning goes, Red Bull’s aero-elastic trickery has been stymied and the car no longer has a huge aerodynamic advantage. Maybe. But be careful with that reasoning. Let’s not forget that in the race just one week before Hungary – at Hockenheim – the aero-elastic Red Bull was no faster than the Ferrari. No significant changes were made to either car yet only few days later the RB6 was suddenly in a different league.

It’s clear that circuit characteristics are driving the competitive picture to a huge degree and that the type of corners that exponentially increase the Red Bull’s downforce advantage – the longer and faster the better – are found in different measure at different venues.

Hockenheim consists mainly of slow-medium, short-duration corners. Hungary, although having a slower average lap speed than Hockenheim, has a middle sector with many medium-quick corners of very long duration. Downforce squares with speed, and the longer the car is in the corner, the longer that advantage is maintained. Hence the very different level of competitiveness of the RB6 between Hockenheim and the Hungaroring.

So what about Spa? That has a middle sector crammed with high-speed, long duration turns – apparently perfect territory for the Red Bull. But what Spa also has are two mighty long straights. Not only is the percentage of the lap formed by the twisty stuff at Spa lower than that at the Hungaroring, but of even more significance is the fact that the end of those straights form the overtaking opportunities – and so therefore have to be defended by giving the cars good straightline speed.

This is not the case at the Hungarian track. Red Bull took a lot of wing out of the RB6 at Spa so Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel didn’t find themselves sitting ducks at the end of the straights. The McLaren had visibly more wing angle, yet was still super-fast on the straights. This reduced what would otherwise have been a devastating Red Bull downforce advantage through the high-speed turns of sector two. In other words, the circuit design was almost certainly much more significant in the change of form than the increased front wing stiffness tests.

However, McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said: “We could see [the Red Bull and Ferrari] front wings were in a different positional domain to previously,” ie the wings were running at a height more like those on the McLaren, where the downforce generated is not as great.

Given that the cars are running in excess of 200mph before the braking zone into Les Combes – at which speed the front wings will be generating around 1,300kg of downforce (at around 650kg each side, that’s 6.5 times the static load applied in the new tougher FIA test) – if the Red Bull’s nose was still deforming, it would have been very visible there.

So around Singapore, Suzuka, Interlagos and Abu Dhabi (and maybe South Korea), we should still expect Red Bull to have a significant performance advantage. That makes it even more crucial for Lewis Hamilton that he wins again at Monza, at the one remaining track where his car probably won’t be slower than the Red Bull. That would increase his currently tiny points lead, but thereafter destiny may not be in his own hands.

It’s a point of view that Hamilton himself subscribes to. … “It would appear [the Red Bull and Ferrari wings] are not flexing as much [as before] and maybe that will bring them back towards us a little, but fundamentally we’re still lacking downforce – and it’s not as if I’m hearing from the engineers that we have a big downforce increase coming.

“This is the toughest championship contest I’ve had – and nowhere near how it was in 2007 and 2008 when we had what was the fastest or close to fastest car all the time. I’ve been managing to get pretty good results but logically you’d have to look at the Red Bull guys as favourites. They have the fastest car and that makes things a lot easier.”