Monday, February 6, 2012

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Why I stopped watching F1

When it was announced that Formula 1 coverage would be shared between BBC and Sky (this corporation will be referred to as S*y in the rest of the article) many fans were outraged to lose part of the previously free-to-air coverage, and even more so when details of the price of S*y Package would cost them. F1 fans would have to pay £45/month for the S*y Sports package or they can get the HD package, which costs an additional £15 a month on top of a basic subscription.

I too am annoyed about this “deal” for two main reasons. Firstly, several Formula 1 fans in the UK already enduring a tough economic crisis, will miss out the coverage from next year due to the relatively high cost of a subscription. Secondly, others who can afford the subscription fee but have a strong dislike of the Murdoch empire, now have no choice on whom to receive the service from.

F1 on TV
I started watching F1 regularly in 2007 on ITV, a terrestrial UK channel. Advertisement-breaks in the middle of exciting races were annoying but one got used to it. Besides, there was no alternative medium and unfortunately no Twitter updates. When BBC took over in 2009, I was pleasantly surprised how much better the coverage was and how the lack of adverts made it a more enjoyable experience.
Pit Lane

After just two years on the BBC, it was announced on 29th of July 2011 that the coverage would be split between the BBC and S*y from 2012 to 2018. I don’t profess to have in-depth knowledge of the intricacies of corporate finance, but I have always disliked Rupert Murdoch and his media empire. This feeling was further compounded by the recent phone hacking enquiry and the resulting closure of News of the World Newspaper.

For those who may not be aware of the link, Murdoch is the founder, Chairman and CEO of News Corporation – the parent company of Fox News, News of the World and it owns 39.1% of BSkyB (which trades as S*y).

Don’t get me wrong, I admire business people and entrepreneurs but I believe that one can thrive in business without resorting to dubious tactics. For instance, I would much rather Richard Branson’s Virgin Media got the rights to broadcast the sport. I like Branson’s enthusiastic and engaging style of business and Virgin Media would be a much better fit to F1 especially since one of its “sister companies” sponsor(ed) a F1 Team (Marussia Virgin – soon to be renamed Marussia).

No doubt S*y will have more resources to keep the sport exciting; with extended coverage, analysis, in-depth discussions and commentary from BBC presenters who have defected. But those are not enough to persuade me to “increase the empire’s revenue”.

So, hard as it may be, I will not be taking out a S*y subscription to watch F1. Nor will I be looking for a pub which has a subscription. Perhaps the experience will be too different without live coverage for entire race calendar and I lose interest in the sport gradually. Or maybe I’ll fall off my “ethical wagon” after a few races and look for S*y footage...... but I would have at least TRIED to stick to my convictions.
Besides the BBC is planning to show highlights of all the races shown on S*y and I’ve got Twitter to keep me updated on the race or better yet, this would be a good reason to get tickets and watch the races live!

Belgian GP, Spa 2009

Hole punch
Those who might miss out on F1 due to affordability of the subscription fee can easily find pubs/sport bars willing to cater to their needs. In fact, @f1inpubs has just been set up to help fans find places showing F1 races, and should encourage fans to meet up regularly to watch and discuss races.

You could punch holes in my decision or stance – you could argue: “why boycott S*y, why not boycott F1 as a whole?” We know it isn’t the fairest or the most ethical sport or business to be engaged in. To that, I’d argue (albeit weakly) that “that ship has sailed” in terms of my love for the sport. Besides, I don’t see anyone else turning their backs on cricket after several “No Balls” allegations or on football for “Diving for Penalties”.

But corruption and phone-hacking is in another league. It is unethical and incredibly voracious of Murdoch’s newspaper journalists to go to such lengths for “exclusive” stories.

This is not meant to be a piece on ethics in F1; but in the near future, it might just explain why I stopped watching F1. I do wonder how many people who were outraged by the News of the World tactics, would happily take out a S*y subscription?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Season Finale and Review

Bloggers, Reporters and Journalists didn’t need much encouragement to use puns such as “close shave” or “smooth run” during the seaon-finale in Brazil despite the event being the anti-climax it was destined to be after the WDC and WCC were decided several races ago. 
Vettel started on pole after breaking Nigel Mansell’s record of most poles in a season on the penultimate session of the season. Though many were quick to point out that he was still trailing Mansell’s record in terms of % poles per races. Hamilton qualified 4th and was beside his team-mate on the grid.

Brazil GP (photo via @F1PaddockPass)

Button lost ground at the start of the race on Sunday, and was soon overtaken by Alonso. He then struggled to keep up with the Ferrari. Vettel was told he had a gearbox problem and had to “short-shift” for the rest of the race. He continued to drive as normal, pulling out a gap on other drivers until he slowed down enough for his team-mate Webber to overtake him. 
Conspiracy theorists then inferred that his gearbox problem was “manufactured” to hand his team-mate the win. Several other drivers suffered gear-box problems; Hamilton had to retire mid way through the race, after a  season he will be in a hurry to forget. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Monza Rally

It is the season-finale of the 2011 Formula 1 season in Brazil and this coincides with Monza Rally in Italy. This event features recently crowned 8-time WRC Champion Sebastian Loeb and MotoGP star Valentino Rossi. I personally have been impressed with Rossi's skills in a 4-wheel vehicle, given that his "true calling" is on 2-wheels.

I posted a comment on Twitter after seeing footage from Monza Rally - saying Rossi should quit MotoGP and do rally full time. To my surprise, Valentino retweeted it to his 265,000 followers. The reaction I got was mostly friendly but some MotoGP fans were very reluctant to entertain the idea of him quitting the 2-wheeler sport. It was not my intention to cause controversy, but Rossi must be happy to know he has passionate fans and supporters whether he chooses to race in 2- or 4-wheel vehicles.

Retweeted by Rossi and 90+ others

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Abu Dhabi Experience

Both WDC & WCC Titles are already won and some people have lost interest in the 2011 F1 season so I'm taking a different tack from usual this week.
Instead of writing a regular race review, I have "interviewed" three people that went to Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from different countries. #1 is a "local" from Dubai, #2 is from France and #3 is from the UK. Here are their Abu Dhabi experiences...

Booking Flights and Accomodation
DU: Thankfully I live in Dubai so it was down to driving to the location for each of the days which takes approximately 45 minutes. The one thing that I needed to make sure about was tickets, we went for the full 3-day pass which gave access to the pit walk on the Friday. I have a feeling that the tickets to the Abu Dhabi GP must be the most expensive of the season, we paid just shy of AED2000 ($545) for the Marina Grandstand. 
FR: 480€ for return flights. I had booked 15 days before the event + 680€ with taxes for 6 nights in appart-hotel at AD center, I booked 1 month ago
UK: I didn't have a budget and I booked everything in August

On arrival in Abu Dhabi...
DU: Temperature was wonderful this time around, better than 2009 which I had also attended and was a lot warmer. The best way to describe the weather is as a western summer with temps around the 30 degrees celsius during the day and the 20s in the evening.
The food quality was good but the menu was very limited, you had the option of hotdog, shwarma, burger, falafel, pies and that’s about it really in terms of hot food. There are food stands all over the race venue but they all carried the same menu, you did have additional stands for frozen yogurt,
crepes and ice cream.

FR: I landed in the rain! But it was hot and I was very welcomed by the locals. Plenty of food choices too: Italian, local, Asian, Mexican...and more. 
UK: Locals were friendly and very organised (both at airport and hotel). Temperature was fab (nice and waaarrrmm. Plenty of fast food / snack food stalls around. But variety was very poor - just fatty fast food. You could go out to the nearby hotels for food but that was a little inconvenient.

Race Day
Track Atmosphere
DU: I sat with a few friends from South Africa, had some other friends all scattered across the various stands. The atmosphere was great, you can see when there are new people to F1 around and how they react when they see the cars for the first time. Most of the grand stands seemed rather busy.
The commentary was a mix of both English and Arabic, a good combination to suit the UAE. As with F1 it is hard to hear the commentators when the race is going, but for the race day I was listening to the radio frequency 102.2FM with headphones so I could keep more informed.
FR: There was a mix, the Brits, Locals, Italians, Indians...I was in a hospitality suite above the stands, then to the Paddock Club. The atmosphere was special, really beautiful by differents light around the track, but it remains superficial...lot of people were not there for F1, just for to show their "argent"! Not really was a "Paddock Club mood" :( 
UK: I was with a mixture of all sorts (friends I was with / Brits / Germans / other nationalities / some locals). Great mood and atmosphere

Impressive Cars at 'Twilight' 
DU: Have to say the look of McLaren once the sun had set and the lights were on that awesome paint work, is by far the best-looking car there. 
The race was better than last year as there was some overtaking, but many attempts were reverted in the 2nd DRS zone as drivers were too eager to pass at the first opportunity without considering that there was a 2nd zone where the driver just been overtaken would be passed again. It seems like they did not consider that and possibly the main reason for the negative comments from some of the drivers about overtaking at Yas. 
I found it amazing how Vettel had such bad luck, but my orange McLaren Shirt came to use as they took 1st and 3rd on the day, well done boys!!!!
FR: [Same here] McLaren

Post Race Entertainment
DU: One of the greatest added benefits to the Abu Dhabi F1 weekend is that you get free access to all the concerts that are been held, this time around it was Britney Spears on Friday, Incubus and The Cult on Saturday and Sir Paul McCartney on Sunday. The concert venue is wonderful and within a few hundred meters of the North Grand Stand. I must say the number of staff that they have on hand for crowd control and transportation truly is impressive and allows for a smooth running event. 

Would you recommend the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix?
DU: Definitely, there is a lot of talk of it being one of the best organized events on the calendar, sadly I won't be able to confirm that as it is the only event that I have been too. I must say though that it is very well organized, with traffic control and crowd control been great. You hardly feel like you are waiting anywhere for a long time. Also with the added benefits of the concerts on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, you can make a great weekend of it.
FR: Yes, I would recommend it because it is a beautiful experience. The place is beautiful but you have to go to the center of Abu Dhabi for more fun and visit, or while Dubai is 1 hour drive from Yas.
UK: Yes, definitely!!!!

Any negatives?
DU: Unfortunately, lack of FanVision was a problem, we had a bad angle to a screen and could only pick it up with binoculars to see what the positions where. Definitely need to get those Kangaroo TV/Fanvision for next time. That’s one way to be completely informed the whole time.
UK: Sadly there was no "track invasion" after the race (unlike at Spa, where fans can pour onto the track)

So there you have it. Abu Dhabi GP is well worth visiting; track facilities are good and well organised and the racing is... well, ....improving. Thanks to the contributors for sharing their experiences and photos. If you would like more information about this event, please leave a comment or tweet @duskyblogF1, @VGSears or @sonia_maalem.
SPECIAL MESSAGE: If in Abu Dhabi next year, some team wants to show my dad and myself in for his 60th birthday, then please tweet @VGSears. 

Photos are by @VGSears.

Friday, November 11, 2011

1st Poll Results

Following an article about Hamilton's performance against his team-mates, I conducted a poll on how Hamilton would perform this season, and these are the results.

Will Hamilton finish with more points than his team-mate in 2011?

Total Votes: 50

Yes, he has always out-performed his team-mates
  12 (24%)
No, he has made too many mistakes this year
  23 (46%)
Maybe but it'll be close
  15 (30%)

Monday, November 7, 2011

2011 Season Review Cards

In preparation for the end of the season, I've invited my Twitter and Twitpic followers to submit Season Review cards for drivers. These "cards" are created by selecting options from 4 columns to describe different drivers' 2011 season.

For example: Massa: A, b, 7, vi
Objective: Beat my team-mate
Satisfied with Performance?: No, not at all
Areas to improve on: Avoid that Silver and Red car
Rate your season: 4/10

To see the Season Review cards already submitted, click here for my Twitpic page.