malaysian-grand-prix

My Dad was a bit of a scoundrel before a war, a wife and three worrisome kids wore him down. In his youth he had a number of jobs, the most interesting working as an apprentice mechanic for the pre-war racing champion Raymond Mays. It was Mays who taught my father to drive, going on one famous ocassion from Edinborough in Scotland in the late evening to the race track at Silverstone south of London in time for racing trials in the morning of the following day. This was long before the A1 motorway was built!

When we were younger Dad would take my brother Wyn and I to the track at Mossport, where I was fortunate enough to see the famous Sterling Moss win the first ever Canadian Grand Prix, a thrilling event that cemented forever my love of Formula One racing and guaranteeing that I and my male offspring would be dodging speeding tickets for the rest of our natural lives. With this background in mind, it is no wonder that I have followed the recent Malaysian Grand Prix with some interest.

Formula One is a challenge for the drivers, for whom it is a gruelling two hours at nightmarish speeds in the cockpit of what is essential a bullet on wheels. In a typical race a driver will lose 3 litres of water and 10 pounds of body weight. An F1 car can go from 185 km/hour to zero in 3.5 seconds putting almost 5G’s of force on the body. Decisions that will cost you and those around you their lives must be made in nano-seconds, repeatedly throughout the race.

But Formula One is a challenge for builders as well, as the rules governing the construction of the cars are changed each year in order to further develop automotive technology. The regulations this year allow four major changes, including how the air under the car is channelled or diffused to keep the rear wheels on the track, and the use of KERS, or kinetic energy recovery system, that redirects braking friction into stored energy that can then be accessed during passing. Kind of like the energy boost button in video games!

When you throw in team rivalry, like the historic match up between Ferrari, Renault, Mercedes and Toyota, and nationality, such as Lewis Hamilton’s restoration of British racing pride last year, and you have an exciting mix for any race. This makes the F1 decision to postpone the start of the race in Malaysia until the sleepy-headed Brits were awake all the more disappointing. It was an exciting race, with the lead changing hands frequently and great battles in the middle of the pack between Lewis and the charging Mark Webber. That is until the race was called on account of rain, and then couldn’t be restarted because of darkness.

Decisions that are made based on advertising revenue are an increasing threat to the safety of this and other sports, and it is to be hoped that the international outcry over this event will temper the greed of those who put these drivers’ lives at risk to increase their profit. However, that aside, if the last two races in Asia are any indication, this promises to be an exciting season of racing on the F1 circuit, with the field more wide open than any I can remember. Gentlemen, start your engines!

Great backrounder on KERS at http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/motorsport/formula_one/7906290.stm

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