So we have reached the end of the road. After a season that saw me trail Brawn’s Jenson Button for most of it, the final event is here, and Button is not the man who can deny me the title.

After the previous race in Brazil, I wqs nine points clear of Red Bull’s Mark Webber, and the best he could score was 10 points. Therefore, for him, winning the race is the only chance he had.

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The Yas Marinas circuit was first introduced to Formula 1 in 2009, and it has played host to a number of season finales. In 2010 it was the venue as Sebastian Vettel clinched his first title, having not previously led the standings at any prior stage. It was also the place where Lewis Hamilton would win his second title in 2014.

The track is quite fast, with one or two unique kinks that, from a fan perspective, don’t necessarily need to be there, but are certainly fun to drive! Turn 1 is reasonably fast, but you need to snap the car back onto a straight line or you’re going onto the gravel.

The next couple of corners are fast, sweeping and lead down to a chicane that slows you right down before a tight left hairpin. You’re then onto the main straight, and after a hard hit of the brakes for another chicane, you’re back onto another fast straight.

The final portion of the track is a windy, bendy sequence that is superficially fast but keeps you honest – overdo it and you will go wide.

In practice it was clear I was comfortably quicker than everyone else, and this form carried on into qualifying (though curiously, in Q1 I was only 4th), with yet another pole position secured. At the start of the race, I was beaten off the line by Button but got back by him by the end of the lap and proceeded to open up a big lead – until around lap seven/eight, when my front right tyre locked up.

Game mechanics being what they are, I could not pit until lap 12, but despite this, I was still some 11 seconds in the lead when I stopped. I rejoined in 8th, and as everyone ahead of me pitted, it wasn’t long before I was back in the lead.

After my second stop, I emerged only half a second in front of Webber, but again pulled away, and after my final stop, I was completely clear. From that point forward, it was a case of concentration – taking each lap as it came, making sure not to run into the back of any lapped cars.

As I finished the final lap, I also took my eighth win of the season, and more importantly, I had finally managed to win a world championship!

It’s been a long journey, and a fun one. I have learned to persevere with something that had previously done nothing but frustrate me. I took the time to learn the tracks and figure out how the tyres perform. I won 8 races, which is far better than I’d ever managed before, and than I’d imagined. I am especially proud of winning at Monaco, and I would have won at Singapore (another track I don’t like) if not for engine failure.

I am delighted with how the season has gone. to complete every race, at full length, was a gruelling experience but one I look forward to repeating for season two!

Having qualified on pole and hoping for a dry race, my immediate thought upon realising this was to be a wet race was that I would not be securing the title in Brazil. A slow start saw Webber’s Red Bull edge ahead of me and maintain a gap of around four seconds, that I just couldn’t eat into. I yearned to get by him, needing to finish ahead of both Webber and Button to become champion, but as the laps progressed and my tyres deterioated, it didn’t seem that I would get the chance.

I did, briefly, get ahead of him as we hit backmarkers, but I was painfully slow on badly worn tyres (my strategy was for a dry race, and the game gives no option to adjust for conditions), and after the first set of stops I just in front of Button. Webber, Vettel, Hamilton and the surprisingly quick Massa would all pit, and I would emerge ahead of Webber to be in the driving seat for the title.

A second long stint hurt me once again, with both Red Bulls hounding me, and I had to work hard at one stage to catch and pass Hamilton.

Still, my pace was generally good, and I wound up in the lead as we approached the final stops – then fate, often so fickle, intervened.

My front right tyre developed a puncture, and the game mechanics being what they are, I was not called into the pits. The result? I lost the lead and had to pit from a few seconds behind Webber. When I emerged, I had 13 laps to chase down Hamilton (which I did), and somehow close a 22 second gap on the Red Bulls. Traffic allowed me to get within 10 seconds of them, but I couldn’t quite get close enough.

Still, Vettel stuffed up Webber by denying him victory, so my third place, and Webber’s second place, means we go into the final race with me on 110 points and him on 101. With a 9 point lead and only 10 available max, I am in a commanding position. Still, it ain’t over till it’s over, and whilst Webber must win, should he do so, and should I fail to score any points, he will be champion. We’ll find out next time.

470px-Circuit_Interlagos.svgSo we have arrived at the penultimate round of the 2009 F1 season. After 15 races, I lead the championship on 104 points, 10 points clear of Jenson Button in second place and 11 points ahead of Mark Webber in third. Should I finish ahead of both of them here, I am guaranteed the title.

There are a few other permutations that would see me win the title. As I have more wins (and cannot be caught on this), any scenario that leaves me still 10 points clear of Button and Webber will see me win the title as well.

In practice it became clear that the track (which is one of F1’s few counter-clockwise circuits) is not as outright fast as tracks like Monza and Spa, but still has several quick sections and some truly meaty left-handers. Turn 1 is a deep left-hand turn that also sees the track dip, as you accelerate into turn 2 (the first two corners together are referred to, quite touchingly, as ‘S’ do Senna) and continue to accelerate around turn 3, onto the long Reta Oposta straight. At the end of this straight is a tight left-hander that requires a generous application of the brakes, before winding through a sequence of impressive right and left corners that require further hard squeezing of the brakes.

Once clear of turn 13 you then hit the fast curve onto the main straight, and then you’re gunning it hard back to the first corner.

My practice run was mainly to establish the performance of the tyres. Interlagos hosts a 71-lap race, and I determined that the hard tyres could do 21 laps before needing replacing. Two stints on those would take be through to lap 42, whereupon I would don the soft tyres, splitting their runs across the remaining 29 laps.

Qualifying was trickier than expected, due to rain. The track is not actually that much slower in wet conditions, but the challenge for me is, as ever, the handling of the car in wet conditions. I was ninth in Q1, and fourth in Q2, which didn’t bode well for my chances of pole. Still, after setting up the pit strategy, the final lap I put in in Q3 was, somehow, somehow, enough for pole – just barely!

With the race to come, I will hopefully report next time around that I am the champion!

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After engine failure denied me any points from Singapore (where I looked set to win, dammit!), I was level on points once more with Button, and Webber had closed to 7 points. With three races to go, the title battle was still a three-way affair.

Suzuka (the only figure-8 circuit in F1) is a famous track, having decided many a title battle, sometimes in controversial fashion. It was here in 1989 that Senna and Prost came together at a chicane, and Senna was able to restart his car and win, only to be disqualified for missing the chicane as he rejoined the track. Senna was furious, and his anger would return in 1990, at the same venue, when, despite qualifying on pole, it would be title rival Prost who would (starting from second) have the cleaner, grippier side of the track. Senna was adamant that Prost would not get away from him, and as Prost did indeed move past him at the start, Senna refused to yield the first corner, and the two collided again – only this time, Senna was champion.

But enough history lessons! What about my race?

In practice I dominated. Even on hard tyres I was faster than everyone else and on soft tyres, over a second quicker. This pace, on a track with several fast curves, was once again the result of being aggressive at these corners when the AI-controlled cars were conservative. The opening sequence of fast right and left turns took a few goes to get right, but once mastered, I was able to go into qualifying full of confidence.

Qualifying was pretty easy and I was on pole once more, only to my surprise, Nico Rosberg in an underperforming Williams was second, and Button was third. At the start I covered Button off and Rosberg drew alongside me but I held my line and kept ahead through the fast set of opening corners.

From that point on, I eased to the win. I easily outpaced everyone, lapping all save Rosberg (whose 2nd place was a shock). Button could only finish 9th, thus scoring no points, meaning should I finish ahead of him and Webber, I will be champion in Brazil.

So I’ve added a rant about Head Office – anyone who works in an office or retail will get that one – and done some tidying up too whilst I was at it. I have archived the 2014 site updates I made, which cleans up the Site Updates page quite nicely.

My next set of major updates will probably be on the Stargate portion of the site (I still need to write some articles about that), and I am considering writing down my Football Manager 2012 story. Yes, I know it’s the 2012 story, but I have a very long save on that game that is worthy of documenting. We shall see!

 

On Friday my manager (who has been my boss for seven and a half years) left the store (and the business) after seventeen years service with them.

It doesn’t feel real yet, but on Monday the reality will begin to set in that he won’t be in charge – that someone else will end up in the big chair, so to speak.

If I were to describe Friday as an emotional day, it would be an understatement. Not only do I regard him as being the best manager I’ve ever worked for, but I regard him as being a good friend too. I always knew where I stood with him, and everything at work was clear and straightforward.

Not anymore.

His departure creates horrible uncertainty. We have a strong team, with great people, and I love them all, but the culture of the company is such that it will drive out the people who work hard and contribute the most to the business. Head office and the area managers operate under the impression that store management have all the time in the world to stand around watching the staff, rather than contributing to things like stock, availability etc. Given how small our payroll is, this is not a reasonable or realistic expectation (especially given all the other tasks we need to do), but the area managers and head office never let realism (or common sense) interfere with expectations.

I think my (now ex) manager has gotten out of the company at the right time. I am extremely sorry to see him go but happy for him too. I aim to escape soon myself.

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Having taken a five point lead following the conclusion of the Italian Grand Prix, I would next face another one of my bogey tracks – Singapore.

Singapore is F1’s only full night race, held on a bumpy street circuit and in sweltering, humid conditions, even despite the time of day. In real F1, this is a test like no other; drivers sweat buckets and endure the vibrations down their backs for two hours (Singapore runs to the maximum length permitted for any race), and have to concentrate from start to finish with barriers waiting to collect them in the event of a mistake.

In 2009 turn 10 had already established itself as a horribly bumpy chicane that would, if not taken right, bounce a car right into a barrier. Recent modifications have reduced the bump considerably, but for my race experience I had to face it.

The first couple of practice laps saw me hesitate a little here and there, not being certain of braking zones and racing lines. With a little practice though, I was more confident going into qualifying than I usually am at Singapore.

I managed pole once again, but spent the first couple of laps behind Vettel and Button, after a slow start. It didn’t take me long to get back past them both, and I was able to eke out a good enough lead so that, by the time the first pit stops were over, I was only a few seconds behind Vettel. I made short work of him and continued to race at a competitive pace.

After the second set of stops I was briefly behind a slow Button, but fresh tyres saw me make short work of him, and by the time of the third and final stops, I was able to emerge still in the lead.

It appeared that I was on course for a seventh win, and I was continuing to extend my lead. All looked good, until lap 51 of 61.

That was when my engine failed.

Needless to say, I was gobsmacked. I wasn’t even annoyed, I was stunned! My first retirement of the season came just as victory seemed guaranteed (and the win would have moved me 8 or 9 points ahead of Button with just three races left).

Button’s fourth place means he now ties me on 94 points, with just three races left!

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Having claimed victory at Spa, the next race venue was a track every bit as famous – Monza, in Italy.

Monza has the highest average speed of any modern F1 circuit – from the Rettifilo Tribune (the main straight) to the fast turn 2 (Curva Biassono) to the Curva del Serraglio (turn 6), everything about Monza is about speed.

This doesn’t mean the track lacks the occasional slow or tight corner – it most certainly does, and this will try and catch you out if you’re not paying attention. Turn 1 (Variante Goodyear) is a snappy right-left chicane at the end of the main straight, and you hit the chicane at over 200 mph, braking hard (and reasonably early) down to about 50 mph in a matter of seconds. Brake too early and you are guaranteed to lose time; too late and you’re taking a trip to the grass.

Turn 3 is a similar experience, requiring the firm application of brakes, but turn 4 can be taken fast, or with only a gentle squeeze of the brakes, and turn 5… 5 needs a little firmness but not much.

Turns 7 and 8 are faster than they look, and it was here that I dare say I made up most of my time on my rivals. In P1 and P2 I was nearly a second clear of the pack, and I owe it to being quicker through here.

Turn 9 is fairly tight on brakes and leads into the fast curve that is turn 10, the final corner. This is a fast curve that sees you drift to the edge of the track – you need to be careful not to touch the grass, or you will spin.

I mentioned that P1 and P2 went well, and so did Q1 and Q2. I was very confident of pole, and in Q3 I set out early, holding pole to begin with. In my complacency, I did not try to better my time.

The result? Button snatched pole by a narrow margin and I had to settle for second.

For the race, I opted for the tried-and-tested three stop strategy, but as with Spa, I went for two stops on soft tyres and only put on my hard boots for the final stint. In P2 I did a simulation run to see how the soft tyres would hold up over time and decided I could get 13 laps out of each set. This would take me up to lap 39 and leave me doing 14 laps at the end on hard tyres.

At the very start of the race I was right on Button’s tail as we approached turn 3, and I tried to set myself up to go around the outside but he bumped into me and sent me wide! However he lost time too and the end result was I got back onto the track ahead of him. I led the race until my first pit stop, where I dropped to fourth and had a brief but exciting drag race with Massa’s Ferrari down toward and around turn 9, where I made the move stick. I then caught the squabbling Red Bulls of Webber and Vettel and weaved between them in the run up to turn 7 to regain the lead.

I would until my second stop, where the AI cocked up slightly. I was scheduled to pit on lap 26, but for some reason my teammate Kubica pitted and I, who had already entered the pit lane, was forced to go around again and pit the following lap. I nearly ran out of fuel and did lose a lot of time – dropping back down to third when I might otherwise have come out in the lead. Still, I would have the lead back by the end of the stops and would complete my final stop with no trouble.

In the end, I won by 23 seconds from Webber, and Button could only manage 5th, sending me, for the first time, into the lead of the championship, by five points, with four races to go!

So I’m doing a number of stomach crunches per day (ramping it up to 60 as of today) and press ups too. Got some weights too, for the arms – so far, I can feel tightness in my upper chest after the press ups, but the abs don’t feel any different, apart from hurting for a short while after exercising but not for long. I think I need to push on with increasing the reps.

The cardio work is largely sorted via walking to work every day, being on my feet all day, and walking home again.

I hope to see visible changes in a few weeks!

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After a woeful Valencia race (from pole to 9th and no points can only be considered a disaster!) I was five points adrift of Button as the game brought us to Spa, the famous venue of the Belgium Grand Prix.

With six races remaining (including this one) I needed to reel Button in quickly. My concern was that Spa would not be my friend (on previous racing games, I have not raced especially well here). The practice sessions were actually quite good, with competitive lap times (including topping P2), and so I went into qualifying with a fair degree of confidence.

Part of my pace here was, I suspect, due to an overly conservative AI braking harder at certain sections of the track. From turns 12-16, I was a lot quicker, as I was lighter on the brakes. This was also true of turns 8 and 9. The famous Eau Rouge complex (a very fast uphill, curved section of track) was another area where I think I was faster.

The result was that I breezed into Q3 (topping Q2 in the process), but then the weather (dry until this point) changed, forcing me onto intermediate tyres in damp conditions.

My worst nightmare! As practice had been dry, I had no idea what to expect from a wet run! Fortunately, I was not only able to maintain my pace, but I pipped Brawn driver Barrichello to pole!

At the very start of the race he nudged in front of me, but I dove down the inside of turn 1 (a formidable hairpin) and, with three of the four stints on soft tyres, I was able to race off into the distance. It was a trouble-free race, a good win, and I reduced Button’s lead back down to just one point, with five races to go!