wpid-1280px-spa-francorchamps_of_belgium.svg_.pngThe famous circuit of Spa in Belgium was the destination for round 12 of my second season on F1 2009, and it would be fair to say I thoroughly enjoy this track. It is fast, and I am fast here, Even in wet conditions (which took place during qualifying) I was able to pump in good laps, enough to qualify 2nd (narrowly missing out on pole).

I was able to get by Vettel into the first turn (a beautiful right hairpin), and from there the race was easy. Eau Rouge is a fantastic, fast uphill curve that is exhilarating every time you hit it, and the sequence from turns 10 through to 16 is a series of fast, sweeping corners that allow you to really push the car.

I had no troubles here. I would lose the lead after my first stop, but regain after everyone else pitted, and I would not lose the lead again. A routine win meant I was now 25 points clear of Button in the championship.

Valencia

Returning to my fictional F1 career, round 11 took us to Valencia, a street circuit that no longer hosts F1 events in reality (last hosting a race in 2012). I scored no points here in my first season, struggling to adapt to the track and making an error that would damage my front wing and prevent me from charging late on.

This time around, in practice conditions that would vary from dry to wet, I was holding up quite well on the time sheets, and had cause for optimism that I might have a good race – qualifying soon put paid to that idea.

I just didn’t get a good lap in in Q1, exiting at that stage for the first time during this career. I might have put in a better second lap, but the very end was ruined when I came around the final corner and another car pulled right across me into the pits, forcing me to abort the lap.

So qualifying had proven to be a disaster. I was 17th, staring at the possibility of scoring no points.

The start of the race itself was actually quite good. I managed to haul myself up the field by out-braking a lot of cars into the first few corners, and was swiftly up to 8th.

I would actually get into first before long, but I wasn’t significantly faster than anyone else, even on soft tyres, and would slip back down the order after every pit stop.

After grappling with a weakened front wing (yes, I pranged it once more) for several laps, I made my final stop and switched to my obligatory stint on hard tyres – at this point I was never likely to win but I was in 3rd, just ahead of a trio of cars who were all lapping faster than me and taking it in turns to pressure me. At every major corner they’d actually go right into the back of me, and this lead to a rather surprising – and annoying – development.

After one such shunt, I received a drive-through penalty! The car behind had driven into me, yet I was getting punished! I had no choice but to accept the penalty and went down to 6th place with only a handful of laps remaining – so I was relying on a miracle to take good points. Thankfully the painfully slow Renault of Nelson Piquet Jr was on hand to hold up the gaggle of cars I was chasing, and with only a couple of laps remaining I was able to get back into third. I would end up trading places with Rosberg a few times, but would ultimately hold on to take 3rd place and 6 points.

I would end up leaving Valencia with a 20 point lead after Button was 6th, so now my advantage was the equivalent of two race wins.

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Montreal, Canada is the next stop on the F1 calendar, with this beautiful circuit, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

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Nestled amongst some gorgeous scenery, this track has been a staple of the F1 calendar since 1978, and enjoys a good reputation among fans and drivers alike. It’s one of few tracks (especially clockwise ones) to have a left-hand turn for its very first corner, and this gives way to a sweeping right-hander and a fast curve.

This is a fast circuit, punctuated by several chicanes. Turns 3 and 4, 6 and 7 and 8 and 9 are all in FAC chicanes, though they can be taken quite quickly. Once through these, there is the huge L’Epingle hairpin, and then you’re on to one of the course’s two DRS zones.

At the end of the Casino Straight you come to one of this track’s defining features – the wall of champions.

It’s named as such because the chicane here has seen many drivers – including Formula 1 champions – hit the wall as they’ve exited the corner and tried to get a good run down the start-finish straight. Notable casualties include Damon Hill, Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel and Jensen Button, to name but a few.

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Another novel feature of the circuit would be the wild life.

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The track has seen some noteworthy races. In 1991 Nigel Mansell was set for victory here and was so assured that he started to wave to the crowd as he coasted round the final lap. In doing so he allowed his engine revs to fall and the car stalled. He wound up classified sixth – a far cry from a win!

2007 saw Lewis Hamilton pick up his first ever win, and in 2011 a rain-soaked race saw Jensen Button take an unlikely victory, following collisions, penalties and several pit stops

It was here in 2014 that Daniel Ricciardo took his maiden F1 win, taking advantage of technical hiccups for both Mercedes.

As far as 2015 is concerned, it’s hard to look past Mercedes once again. Rosberg’s somewhat fortuitous win in Monaco saw him close to with 10 points of Hamilton – can he get closer?

Back to F1 2015

Another match-up, this time suggested by  of Big Footy, sees the Man of Steel go up against the One.

For Neo’s abilities I’ll obviously be referencing the Matrix films, whilst for Superman, I’ll be drawing upon his most recent on screen appearance, Man of Steel.

Neo

Neo

Within the Matrix itself, Neo is mighty. His strength and speed exceeds that of any other soldier of Zion and even the Agents that protect the system. He can punch people so hard they break brick walls when they hit them, and can engage several enemies at once without missing a beat and without getting hurt (Matrix Reloaded, when fighting the Merovigian’s henchmen).

He can also fly at great speed, such as when he swoops in to save Morpheus and the Keymaker from a soon-to-blow-up pair of trucks in Reloaded.

So Neo is strong, and quick. In Revolutions he is tossed through brick walls and even slammed into the ground so hard he leaves behind a mini crater, yet whilst this disorientates him, it does not do any obvious physical harm.

Superman

HENRY CAVILL as Superman in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “MAN OF STEEL,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

In his most recent appearance, Superman once more does all the things we’ve come to expect from him. He can fly at great speeds, withstand temperatures well beyond human norms, and his fights with other Kryptonians in Man of Steel levelled buildings and streets. His physical displays were every bit what we expected to see – and of course, bullets are useless against him.

Who wins?

It’s quite an intriguing fight. Both combatants are fast, both possess great strength and both can withstand assaults no ordinary human could hope to resist.

What it comes down to for me is Superman’s performance against other Kryptonians in Man of Steel. He was initially battered in the course of the first fight (against soldiers no less), but recovered to hold his own. He endured attacks well beyond the scope of what Neo has handled, and dished out a similar level of pain.

I dare say this is why (even know Neo might push him harder than expected), this is a relatively easy win for Superman.

Back to Versus Debates

wpid-wp-1419102838676.pngReturning to Hungary is like slipping into a warm bath. I enjoy this circuit, which is pretty quick and doesn’t offer up anything too challenging (unless you drop your concentration). Turn 1 is great – a huge right-hander, and turn 4 can be hit with decent speed, but a lack of care can see you run the kerb if you’re not careful. Turn 5 is pretty quick and but the chicane can catch you out – my temptation was to brake late, but you can’t really get away with that.

Hungary has a reputation for being tough to overtake on and corners 8, 9, 10 and 11 are fast, sweeping turns that make it impossible to get by anyone, and the way the track winds means you can get by someone at one corner, only to lose the place back at the next corner.

The track has one or two bumps and kinks that you need to be aware of – take them wrong and you’ll also take the corner horribly wrong, so it’s important to be aware of them. Turn 4 has one such feature, as does turn 11.

As far as the race is concerned, I only did one practice run (to see how the tyres held up over distance). The first time around, I discovered that Hungary punishes tyres hard, so I ran the race largely on the hard tyre, only doing one stint on the soft (the opposite of what I prefer). I did this again here, doing around 19-20 laps at a time on the hard tyre, so that my stint on the soft tyre was only around 12 laps (they weren’t going to do much more than that).

I was able to qualify on pole easily, but did my customary job of losing a place at the start (this time to Red Bull’s Mark Webber). On lap 2 (I think) I got alongside Webber getting out of turn 7 and toward turn 8, and I was on the racing line despite being on the outside of the corner. I thought I was clear of Webber, but we had a minor bump as I swung inside, and he went to the outside. Our collision saw him come off the track, but I was able to carry on, car undamaged.

What I did notice was that Webber didn’t lose many places to this, but he must have hit Vettel as he rejoined the track, for when I checked the standings, Vettel was last (well, there wasn’t a lot of love lost between them in real life, so the game might as well mimic life!).

With hard tyres on I was able to edge away from the chasing pack quite easily, and though I slipped down to fifth at the first stops, I regained the lead when everyone ahead of me pitted. By the time the second set of stops arrived, I emerged just barely ahead of Jensen Button, but was able to pull away once again. Come the final stops, I had a reasonably comfortable gap, and saw out the race without bother or trouble. I am now 17 points clear in the championship.

Yesterday I asked the good people of Big Footy for the next versus match-up, and the response to the thread has so far been good, with some interesting prospects lined up. The first one I want to look at was suggested by Chefmeister (who actually suggested quite a few good fights). It’s a battle of the villains – Lord Vader, Sith Lord and right hand of the Emperor, against Magento, a dangerous mutant terrorist, bent on elevating mutantkind (even if it means destroying humanity).

Once again, I’ll be using film interpretations only for this comparison. With Vader, I’ll obviously be using the Star Wars movies, and for Magneto, the recent X-Men films.

DarthVaderDarth Vader

Often Vader is seen as the daddy of all villains. Cold, ruthless, prepared to make examples of anyone who fails him, Vader is merciless. His abilities as a Sith make him capable of precognition, grant him reaction times well beyond that of the average human, and he is armed with possibly the coolest weapon ever conceived – the lightsaber (which can deflect energy bolts and cut through just about anything).

That said, Vader is not without his vulnerabilities. His very life is dependent upon the mechanical suit that gives him such an imposing appearance – without it, he would die. Additionally, the suit means he can’t move with the grace of a Jedi, as he once did when he was Anakin Skywalker. Nor is he as fast.

MagnetoMagneto

Another uncompromising villain, Magneto fancies himself as a freedom fighter, and to be fair, he is interested in helping mutantkind, but it has to be on his terms (to the degree where even other mutants who oppose his methods earn his wrath). Magneto looks down upon humanity, and in doing so makes it easy to justify hating them.

His powers are quite something. He can stop dozens of bullets simultainously, stretch and bend and flatten metal effortlessly, steer aircraft down to land, even quite literally move bridges. On the face of it, his powers far exceed Vader’s.

So who wins?

This is a tough one. Vader’s suit is going to have metal components and Magneto could cause havoc for him. Additionally, depending on where this battle takes place, any other metal objects will immediately become weapons for Magneto to exploit.

However, Vader has precognition, and the Force.

If Vader senses Magneto coming, he can use the Force to hurl any objects straight back at Magneto (we could find ourselves watching them throw items back and forth at each other using their respective powers). More importantly, Vader could use the Force to strangle Magneto at a distance.

A lot of this comes down to whether Vader can dispatch Magneto quickly. If he sees Magneto coming, or is prepared, and goes straight for the Force choke, he can end this fight quickly. If however, he doesn’t take care of Magneto at the first opportunity, then things get more difficult. Magneto might well use his own powers to twist, break or crush any metal components within Vader’s suit (he could cause Vader all kinds of pain with that), or chuck any and all nearby metal objects at Vader. He could even throw Vader himself.

I guess it depends how arrogant Vader decides to be. If he is overconfident in his powers, he might give Magneto a sniff of a chance. If he wants to end the fight quickly, he can do so quickly, and my gut tells me Vader wins (at least, most of the time he wins).

Back to Versus Debates

As you may have already seen on this site, I like versus debates. I’ve touched upon the geek-fest that is Star Trek vs Star Wars, and now I turn my attention to another battleground – that of superheroes!

Please note, these arguments are not ‘Marvel vs DC’ or any other such rivalries. I have my opinions on what I prefer, but that has no relevance to these versus discussions. I am not interested in any ‘Marvel are better than DC’ type arguments, so if perchance you leave comments or email me with such arguments, I won’t even bother reading them. Please also note that I am comparing the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Dark Knight Triology characters.

So, on to the first battle.

Iron Man vs Batman

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What we have here is a battle between two geniuses, both with personality flaws, and both with huge resources behind them. Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne both own multi-billion dollar businesses, both have access to gadgets the average man can only dream of, and both are very intelligent.

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Tony Stark operates very much in the open, having revealed himself as Iron Man at the end of the first Iron Man film. He actually ends up building the reactor that powers the suit not because he wants to, but because he has to, in order simply to survive (shrapnel that would otherwise slice his heart apart is kept trapped by the magnetism of the arc reactor in his chest until the end of Iron Man 3).

His armoured suits are capable of flight, including high altitude flight, and he can reach speeds comparable with military aircraft (Iron Man). The armour can withstand tank shells (Iron Man), and he use the repulsors in the armour’s hands as weapons (pretty much every appearance on film). His suits have built-in weapons, including missiles (Iron Man, The Avengers), concentrated lasers (Iron Man 2, The Avengers) and rapid fire guns (Iron Man).

Additionally, Stark’s armour has withstood electrical attack (from Whiplash in Iron Man 2 and Thor’s hammer in The Avengers) and powerful physical assaults (Thor struck the armour several times with his hammer in The Avengers, whilst in the same film Stark also took an unwelcome spin in the turbines of a helicarrier, emerging with damaged but functional armour).

The Iron Man suit also withstood repeated blows from alien weaponry in The Avengers.

What can Batman do?

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Bruce Wayne has a lot in common with Stark. He owns a multi-billion dollar business, and he makes good use of his resources. Unlike Stark, Wayne operates quietly, guarding his identity – no one knows who Batman really is.

Wayne is also a highly trained combat specialist, in particular when it comes to stealth and misdirection. He is not so much absorbing blows as evading them altogether, coming at his opponents from unexpected angles (Batman Begins underscores this quite nicely, as well as highlighting his formidable training).

As he prefers to operate in the dark, Wayne has access to good night vision gear and his suits are typically strong against physical attack. They are also bulletproof to a point (The Dark Knight).

Wayne also has equipment, such as custom-designed cars, bikes and aircraft (The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises). The Batmobile is very good at taking unorthodox routes over normally impassable terrain.

How might a fight go?

Bruce Wayne is as mentioned a highly trained martial artist and mentored by an organisation specialising in stealth and misdirection. If he wants to go unseen, he will go unseen by most of his targets. His hand-to-hand combat skills are easily better than Stark’s, and if the two encountered each other outside of their respective suits, Wayne would easily win.

Of course, we’re comparing Iron Man and Batman, so it seems pretty obvious they’re not going toe-to-toe as their regular personas. If Batman should encounter Iron Man and the two decide, for whatever reason, they need to take down the other, who triumphs?

I’m going to say Iron Man. Stark’s armour has built-in weaponry, ranged weapons, and can withstand far tougher physical assaults than Batman can dish out. Fans of the Dark Knight might bring up possible electromagnetic devices to disable Iron Man, but Iron Man can withstand electrical assaults, and disabling the weapons and flight abilities of the suit won’t do anything to affect the strength of the armour itself. Plus, in order to deliver an electrical charge or pulse, Batman has to get close to Iron Man – without being caught out by missiles or energy blasts.

Batman is stealthy yes, but Iron Man has sensors and equipment to help him locate targets, and even if he can’t find Batman, should Iron Man have a rough idea of where he is, he can flush him out with ranged weapons to destroy any cover available to Batman.

When we compare the two, sorry Batman fans, I just can’t see past an Iron Man victory.

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