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Recent observations and ‘discussions’ with anti-gay marriage debaters have led me to believe that some of them are genuinely baffled as to why others don’t appreciate their hardline, discriminatory stance. It would seem that by refusing to accept a religious-based argument for denying people rights, myself (and others who do not feel religion is an excuse to deny the rights of others) are being ‘judgemental’ and ‘hateful’.

There is resentment over the apparent vilification of Kim Davis and her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, with some observers claiming her jailing was in fact motivated by her beliefs, and quite worryingly, Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and has come out with a statement that this affair is part of the criminalisation of Christianity.

What this is really about is a thinly disguised attempt to block rights, then argue that religious freedoms are being curtailed if anyone speaks out against blocking rights. It is an attempt to justify a discriminatory (and at times, violently so) attitude, hiding behind their religious beliefs (or sometimes because of them) to use as a shield from criticism, crying ‘you’re not respecting my beliefs!’ when someone challenges them.

To put it bluntly, it’s a cowardly attempt to hide a bigoted agenda behind their beliefs.

I’ll end this post with this:

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F1 Grand Prix of Japan - Previews(fans pay tribute to the late Jules Bianchi at Suzuka)

The story of the 2015 Japanese race is that of a comprehensive Mercedes victory, rebounding strongly after their relatively poor performance in Singapore. In qualifying Hamilton and Rosberg traded places through Q1 and Q2, before Rosberg took pole (by 0.076 of a second), with the drivers in Q3 forced to abandon their final runs after Kvyat smashed up his Red Bull. It was Rosberg’s first pole since Spain and only his second of the season, and Hamilton praised the German for his stonking lap.

The race car of Red Bull driver Daniil K(Kvyat’s Red Bull has seen better days!)

With the title race entering its final and decisive phase, if ever Rosberg was going to display the fight and hunger that he needed to win the championship, now was the time. On pole, he held the advantage, and he needed to make the most of it. Hamilton though, had other ideas. Both Mercedes had reasonably good getaways, but it was Hamilton who started better, getting virtually alongside Rosberg into turn 1 and squeezing his teammate as they entered turn 2, forcing Rosberg to lift slightly to avoid contact (and in the process, Rosberg slipped down to fourth).

Rosberg was careful to not openly criticise Hamilton after the race, but he seemed to hint that he was unhappy, saying “It got really close on the exit of Turn Two and I had to back out of it there and that lost me the race. I haven’t seen it on TV. For sure it was close. I had to avoid a collision. But it is difficult to comment now.”

Hamilton, for his part, was unrepentant, stating that he had held the inside line, and therefore it was his corner. It was certainly gutsy, and typical of Hamilton at his most ruthless and aggressive, leaving Rosberg to decide whether to chance having an accident or not.

JapanHamRos(this was as close as the Mercedes duo got to each other)

The win was routine for Hamilton at that point, pulling away from the Ferrari of Vettel at a steady rate whilst Rosberg was unable to quite mount an attack on the Williams of Bottas ahead of him.

Behind the leaders, contact between Massa and Ricciardo saw both of them collect a puncture at the very start of the race, ruining any prospect of points for either, whilst Perez ran very wide at the very first corner, albeit not as a result of the other incident.

Whilst Hamilton was pulling away, his team used strategy to try and get Rosberg ahead of Bottas. After the first set of stops Rosberg was still behind the Williams, but a bold move into the final chicane saw him move up to third, with the sort of forceful overtake that we haven’t really seen Rosberg do very often. He would get by Vettel when the pair pitted, but could do nothing to prevent Hamilton cruising to victory.

Mixed McLaren Messages

The ongoing struggles for McLaren-Honda seem to grow. On a weekend where it was rumoured Button might announce his retirement (he didn’t), Alonso blew a fuse as he was passed left right and centre by cars that normally would be close on pace. At one point, he was loudly complaining on the radio that his engine was like a GP2 engine, and after the race he initially refused to say that he was committed to the team. He has since clarified his remarks, insisting he will stay, but such a public rebuke of Honda (especially on their home soil) is a sign of a driver who is clearly very frustrated. Ron Dennis has said he wants both Alonso and Button to stay, but in F1, nothing is certain.

JapanAlo(McLaren were even hounded by Renault power!)

Verstappen’s Star Rises

Once again Max Verstappen showed good racing instinct to climb from near the back of the field (he took a three-place grid penalty for an unsafe track stop) to finish ninth, beating his teammate Sainz in the process. He has shown he is not afraid of established and more experienced names, and as he gets experience of his own, it seems the only way is up for Verstappen. In particular, he hounded the usually quicker Red Bull of Kvyat, and showed good composure.

Force India’s Hulkenberg also showed good form, following a couple of less successful races. He too started further down the field (having taken a three-place penalty for causing a collision with Massa in Singapore), and he too worked his way back up the field, finishing a highly credible sixth.

Lotus, the subject of financial woes and a possible takeover by Renault, had a quiet race, not getting into trouble, with Grosjean finishing seventh and Maldonaldo taking eighth – important for the cash-strapped team.

Finally, the Manor team had faced a challenging weekend, on their first visit to Suzuka since Jules Bianchi sustained his ultimately fatal injuries here. As ever racing at the back, both their drivers showed great reactions to avoid a huge accident with each other – Will Steven’s span as they approach the final chicane, but managed to keep the car on the track and out of the barriers, whilst Rossi managed to avoid t-boning his teammate moments later.

The end result of Japan is that Hamilton is now on 277 points, 48 points clear of Rosberg, with 125 points max remaining from the final five races. Such is Hamilton’s advantage that he could afford to finish second to Rosberg in all the remaining races and still win the title – you can bet that he won’t settle for second though.

Back to F1 2015

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Hot on the heels of Monaco comes Turkey! I quite like this track and I dare say it could a welcome addition to the sport, if other tracks withdraw. The circuit is fast, punctuated by some pretty meaty corners ( like turns 4 and 5, turn 7 and the challenging turn 12), and Turkey also has the high speed turn 8, a long left hander.

I enjoyed qualifying, which was actually quite a close affair, and I only just snatched pole from Mark Webber. When the race started, I (as usual) did not start very well, letting both Webber and Vettel by. The two Red Bulls were squabbling in front of me, and on lap two I managed to squeeze ahead of Vettel, before applying pressure on Webber (getting by shortly after).

It took me a few laps to find a good rhythm, but I began to pull away, getting to the point where I was able to pit on lap 14 and emerge a couple of seconds ahead of Button (who was on a different strategy to the Red Bulls and had moved up to second as a result).

I became a little error strewn at this point, pulling away from Button on parts of the track but letting him get closer on others. It took me a few laps to get back into the groove, but once I did, I began to ease away again. By the time of my second stop, I was able to get back out with an even more comfortable margin.

I continued to build up the gap, lapping backmarkers and looking set to reduce the title gap even further… Until around lap 38, when my engine conked out.

A second retirement in seven races means the gap between me and Button has grown to 15 points (I can be thankful for the small mercy that he didn’t win and was ‘only’ second). Can I bring that gap back down?! We shall see.

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It’s been a while since one of these, and it’s been a little while since I played through this race! Once again, Monaco provided a challenge, and once again I was unable to get through it without a few bumps along the way.

Pole was earned easily enough, and I got a decent start, getting into an early lead. From there, the race would prove quite easy, if only because the AI was far more error-prone than I was! I would (despite extra stops due to damage and even a penalty) win by a couple of laps, closing the gap to title leader Button to seven points!

Timon4Anyone who knows me will be aware that earlier in the year life threw me an unexpected and unpleasant surprise, one that did, for a short time, knock me for six and left me feeling very angry. That anger, whilst dampened, is still there, though what I am trying to do is sharpen it into a tool, that I can use to more constructive ends. I had the chance to put a few things into perspective during this time, and I’ve emerged on the other side of it stronger, more focused and more driven.

My new job is at once both familiar to me and very different. It is a sales role, not unlike some of the work I did at my previous employer, only I don’t have the burden of managing a store without any head office support, I don’t have to worry about stock, or banking, or finishing late because there’s no one else available to close, etc etc. Whilst I am dealing with products that, prior to this job I knew very little about and never expected to be selling, I am finding myself enjoying it, and I can focus a lot more on individual customers, offering my full attention and care.

So, I face the future with a renewed sense of optimism and enthusiasm!

Just one week after the Singapore Grand Prix threw up  a surprising lack of performance from Mercedes virtually all weekend, F1 returns to Suzuka, Japan, home of one of the sport’s most iconic tracks.

wpid-wp-1421964661354.pngThe unique figure of 8 configuration has played host to some of Formula 1’s most dramatic and memorable races. Suzuka has also been the event that saw the championship conclusion on a number of occasions, including five times in a row (87, 88, 89, 90 and 91). A fast circuit that features demanding high-speed corners (the sequence from turns 1 right through to 8 can easily be regarded as breath-taking), it would seem likely that Suzuka will play into Mercedes’ hands.

There are six races left in the championship (including Japan), with a maximum of 150 points available. Hamilton leads Rosberg by 41 points and Vettel by 49 points, as the title race starts to enter crunch time. Hamilton could afford to have Vettel win every remaining race, as long as he was second in every remaining race, but would lose the title by a single point if that same scenario played out with Rosberg.

F1 veteran Jenson Button might announce his retirement from the sport here, though he might also postpone such a move out of respect for McLaren’s engine suppliers (Honda). The 2009 champion is popular in Japan and thus it seems more likely we’ll get an announcement another time.

It’s impossible to talk about the Japanese Grand Prix and not be reminded of the tragic events of last year. The accident that befell Jules Bianchi was, in my personal view, avoidable, and given Bianchi’s potential, all the more painful. I can only offer sympathy to his family, at what most undoubtedly be a difficult time, and I hope the drivers can serve up a race that serves as a fitting tribute. Forza Jules.

Jules Bianchi

Back to F1 2015

Have chinks appeared in Mercedes Armour?

A dominant performance throughout practice, qualifying and the race itself. An established champion easing to victory. It sounds like a typical Hamilton-led Mercedes performance, but yesterday this was very much not the case. Instead, it was the scarlet Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel that controlled the race, having taken pole by half a second from Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo (yes, you read that right – Red Bull, in second).

Kimi Raikkonen was third and Danil Kvyat fourth, so where were the usually untouchable Mercedes cars? Hamilton could only secure fifth on the grid, with Nico Rosberg sixth.

At the start of the front runners got away more or less in their starting order and began to peel away from the pack, but Mercedes were not showing any hidden pace and began to drop away from the Ferraris and Red Bulls. It was becoming painfully clear that Hamilton and Rosberg just couldn’t live with the cars ahead, and that Singapore would be damage limitation.

SingaporeGPStart(Sebastian Vettel leads Daniel Ricciardo around the first corners)

Vettel’s steady charge away from the rest of the pack was twice interrupted – the first time when the Williams of Felipe Massa and the Force India of Nico Hulkenberg came together as Massa came out of the pits. It’s this particular fan’s humble opinion that Hulkenberg just didn’t give Massa enough room, squeezing the Williams as he tried to go around, and misjudged just how far he was turning in. Hulkenberg bounced over Massa’s wheels and spun into the barrier, ending his race.

SingaporeMasHulk(Hulkenberg ends his race on lap 13 as he collides with Massa)

Whilst the safety car bunched the field back up, Vettel controlled the restart brilliantly, peeling away from Ricciardo with ease. The inevitable pit stop rush that a safety car triggers caused problems for Ricciardo’s Red Bull teammate Kvyat, who fell behind Hamilton and Rosberg, and was unable to get by Rosberg for the remainder of the race. Hamilton would start to suffer problems with the energy recovery system on his car, losing power and dropping back through the field, before eventually retiring on lap 32. A lap later, Fernando Alonso suffered yet another retirement, a gearbox failure ending his race (something that also force his teammate Jensen Button to retire on lap 52).

The second safety car spell was triggered by a very unusual and frankly scary incident on lap 38 when a man was spotted taking a stroll down the side of the track! Needless to say, the potentially very dangerous circumstances required the safety car to slow the cars down, and the man eventually climbed over a barrier and out of danger (and was also arrested!). Once again, Vettel aced the restart, moving on to take a comfortable victory.

SingaporeGPMan(Vettel drives on as an errant fan walks by!)

Behind Vettel, there were a few more thrills and spills to be had. Button drove into the back of a slow-reacting Pastor Maldonaldo as the latter came out of a corner, prompting some uncomplimentary remarks from Button about Maldonaldo’s mental state, and Max Verstappen (who, having stalled at the start had found himself a lap down after just one lap) managed not only to unlap himself (helped by the safety cars), but also pulled off move after move on the cars in front to push his Toro Rosso up to eighth, with his fellow rookie and teammate Carlos Sainz also getting into the points, right behind Verstappen in ninth. At one stage Verstappen was asked to let Sainz by in a bid to let Sainz attack Perez, but he refused, in a moment of what some might view as inexperience, though to be fair to him, he did make a good case as to his reasons afterward.

Vettel’s performance was a commanding one, reminiscent of the many controlled wins he had for Red Bull, and in fact his 42nd career win moves him ahead of Ayrton Senna and into third on the all-time win list. To me though, Verstappen’s charge up the pack was the performance of the day.

So what does the race mean for the title race? There are six races left and 150 points left to grab. Vettel’s win, combined with Hamilton’s retirement and Rosberg only managing fourth place, means Vettel is 49 points behind Hamilton, whilst Rosberg is 41 points behind Hamilton. Hamilton still has a one win advantage over Rosberg and he took wins at the Japanese, Russian and US grands prix last season, so he may well be relatively unconcerned, but Mercedes might be a little worried at their complete lack of pace at Singapore. The next track, Suzuka, is a fast circuit that might well play to their strengths, but they’ve been completely off their game at Singapore, and it will be interesting to see if this the start of a blip.

Back to F1 2015

Another day, another attempt to paint pictures of Jeremy Corbyn as something different to what he actually is – this time, it’s concerning alleged support for Hezbollah, and his patriotism.

As this article from The Independent shows, back in 2012 Corbyn’s picture was taken by a young man who saw the future Labour leader smile at him and thought it would be a good photo op. As the young man took the snap, someone walked by carrying a Hezbollah flag. The more rabid elements of the media have of course, been using this to try and discredit Mr Corbyn – what a shock.

There has also been scrutiny of Mr Corbyn’s remarks about Hamas and Israel – which he has since clarified (check the link to see his comments).

I wonder where this will end.

It’s by now old news (as is anything in Formula 1 that’s more than a week old), but I can’t post an F1 news update without passing comment on Red Bull’s ongoing engine woes.

image(Christian Horner has been unable to hide his dismay at the poor performance of Renault engines this year)

A messy split from current suppliers Renault is now, seemingly, a certainty. The partnership that gave Red Bull four consecutive driver and constructor championships has not been able to endure a year and a half of steadily worsening results, and Red Bull are hoping to end their contract with Renault a year early. Red Bull have been increasingly vocal in their criticism of Renault, who have not taken kindly to such public tongue lashings, and if the inevitable does happen, it would seem Red Bull have backed themselves into a corner. It seems likely that Renault will also withdraw engines from Red Bull’s sister team, Toro Rosso (in fact, Renault are trying to buy Lotus, so they might end up focusing on just one team next year).

Mercedes say No

It won’t come as a surprise that Mercedes have said no to supplying Red Bull. Red Bull have produced competitive designs for several years, designs that in fact were enough to overcome engine deficiencies prior to the V6 turbos. Mercedes aren’t prepared to give a rival a potentially huge boost, so Red Bull have two options – sound out a new engine supplier (and looking at what’s been happening at McLaren with Honda, that might not be a good idea right now), or seeing if Ferrari would be willing to cut a deal.

Ferrari say Yes?

There’s history between Red Bull and Ferrari. At one time, Ferrari provided Red Bull with engines (back in 2006) and supplied Toro Rosso for a few years as well. The Italian outfit have already said they would be prepared to supply engines to Red Bull, but nothing is done and dusted yet.

If such a deal goes ahead, will it provide Red Bull with the leap forward they need? Will their usually excellent chassis be enough, combined with a Ferrari engine, to offset the advantage Mercedes currently have? We shall have to wait and see.

Back to F1 2015 News

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Next up on the F1 calendar comes arguably the most grueling race of the year – the street circuit of Singapore.

Racing is an uncomfortable business for the drivers. The cockpits are cramped, they  wear fireproof gear that ensures they sweat buckets and they get jostled and bumped as they hurtle around the track, accelerating and decelerating and taking all the knocks that entails. When you throw into this mix a track bumpier than usual, hotter than usual and with intense humidity, you have a recipe for a challenging race.

Oh yes, and this race takes place at night, meaning the drivers and teams have to adjust their body clocks too.

Last year’s race was crucial to Lewis Hamilton’s title hopes. Rosberg would suffer the misfortune of an electrical fault that would ultimately see him retire, whilst Hamilton would win, taking a huge chunk out of Rosberg’s title lead. For Rosberg to have a realistic chance at the title this year, he needs Hamilton to suffer something similar on Sunday.

What Rosberg probably won’t want to hear is that only champions have won at Singapore.

Red Bull have earmarked this track as one they might do quite well at – the track is not especially fast and features a number of twists and turns – well suited to a car with good aerodynamic properties. It might well be the last chance they have to get serious points. McLaren might also fancy their chances at a race which has seen a safety car every time it’s been held so far. Because of the conditions and the tight nature of any street circuit, Singapore usually produces good races, and I expect the same again on Sunday!

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