Would the hot, thin-air environment of Mexico City provide the backdrop to the F1 title decider, or would the world championship journey onward one more round?

In qualifying, the Red Bull of Max Verstappen offered up a possible wildcard, top of Q1 and Q2, yet it was Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel who took pole with a huge lap in Q3, just piping the young Dutchman to the front. Directly behind Vettel was his title rival Lewis Hamilton, parking his Mercedes in third. With seven world titles plus one highly rated young man starting in the top three, the stage was set for a feisty opening lap, which was duly delivered.

At the start Hamilton exploited the slipstream of Vettel’s Ferrari, who initially got clear of Verstappen, who then also attempted to use the slipstream of Vettel, tucking in right behind the Ferrari, with Hamilton going out wide, the three of them almost abreast heading into turn 1. Verstappen dove into the first corner with Vettel immediately to his right, squeezing hard but fair, however Verstappen was equally as aggressive, and Vettel ended up clipping his front wing on the rear-right tyre of the Red Bull. Hamilton attempted to surge past his title rival and Vettel, struggling in the wake of that initial contact with Verstappen, did more damage to his front wing on the rear-right tyre of Hamilton’s car.

Whereas Verstappen escaped without any problems, Hamilton suffered a puncture, effectively ruining any hope he had of competing at the front. He limped back to the pits, but so did Vettel, who had no choice but to replace his mangled front wing. This meant the two title contenders were reduced to the back of the pack! Up ahead, Verstappen was starting to pull away from the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas.

Vettel and Hamilton would start to climb back up the order, though Vettel had an easier time of it, with Hamilton asking on the radio if his car had damage, as he was finding it difficult to get close enough to attack anyone. Both of them had their quest to rise up the field aided by a number of problems for Renault-powered cars, with Daniel Ricciardo suffering engine failure (with a brand new engine no less) in his Red Bull, Nico Hulkenberg retiring his Renault following a battery pack issue (that required him to exit the car very carefully, lest he get a shock), newcomer Brendon Hartley forced to pull out over when his Toro Rosso started billowing smoke, and Carlos Sainz withdrawing his Renault from proceedings at the urging of the team.

Hartley’s exit from the race triggered a virtual safety car, under which Hamilton pitted, exchanging his soft tyres for super-softs. At this point his race changed, and he was able to start gradually climbing past some of the cars in front. The title would still be his unless Vettel could somehow reach second place, which was looking more and more unlikely. Bottas was some 30 seconds clear of the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, and by the time Vettel had made it to fourth, he was some 30 seconds behind Raikkonen with only a few laps to go.

Both Hamilton and Vettel enjoyed some battles as they moved up the field. McLaren’s Fernando Alonso was quite happy to try and hold them up as best they could and briefly succeeded, before the stark lack of power in the Honda engine was exposed. Succumbing to Hamilton didn’t mean a complete disaster for Alonso – he finished tenth and in doing so, took a point, something of a rarity for himself and the team.

At the front, Verstappen was serene and supreme. Despite being asked by Red Bull to take it easy, he kept setting faster lap times, opening up a 20-second advantage on Bottas. He was dominant, taking his second win of 2017 and his third overall. With second place Bottas shrunk the gap between himself and Vettel, whose fourth place was not enough to extend the world championship fight for another round – Lewis Hamilton, despite only managing ninth, joined Vettel on four world titles.

The magnitude of that achievement cannot be overstated. Hamilton can now say he is, without question, the most successful British F1 driver of all time. He is now joint third on the list of champions, alongside Vettel and Alain Prost, with Juan Manuel Fangio (five) and Michael Schumacher (seven) still to be caught. To claim the title with a ninth place finish is unusual, but Formula 1 is often quite unusual!

The day itself though, belonged to Max Verstappen, who put in a powerful, controlled performance to win by a very clear margin over Bottas. It was in some ways reminiscent of the dominant drives Vettel enjoyed for Red Bull, and possibly a mark of what’s to come. On a day where an established F1 great won the world championship, it was a potential challenger to the throne who asserted his authority, right from the start. It makes for an intriguing 2018, even as the 2017 is yet to end.

Originally posted on the Nudge Wink Report:

I’ve sat down on the train. I’m tired after a long day at work. I’ve actually got a headache, and I’m hoping for a quiet, peaceful journey. Will I get one… nope. Not at all. Why? Well, lurking in a nearby seat is a biological weapon, a chemical bomb, a vile, repugnant force.

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(is it behind me? Please, don’t be behind me!)

I can sense it growing in malice. It’s need to spread its diseased power across the landscape is insatiable. Now it’s making disgusting, squelching, gurgling noises… you know, those wet sounds, like someone walking through thick, wet mud. SLURP SLURP SLURP…

Where is it? What is it?

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(it’s really familiar, and I know I’m not going to like what it is…)

The train rumbles along the tracks, juddering and rocking and bumping along. With each new jarring impact, there are groans of woe and fear and dread. Still, one more stop and I’ll be getting off this train…

Except, it’s too late. The final bump triggers the unleashing of this harrowing, terrifying force…


I’m confronted by the coming of The Thing. With that brilliantly disgusting wet ‘blllleeaarrrrerrruk’ sound. What’s happened? What creature has been unleashed?!


The Puke Monster!!!

Basically, a kid on the train was sick.

It’s not really the kid’s fault. I blame the parents for filling them with sugar. Actually, that isn’t fair either. I have no idea why they emptied their stomach. I do know I’m extremely grateful my sense of smell failed me at that moment, and that the train stopped more or less at that moment too. It’s a far cry from a recent flight with my little girl, strapped in and unable to escape as she’s sick over her mother and herself. That I did smell, and I nearly broke out into a sympathetic rainbow-coloured yelp of my own.

I guess the moral of this story is… well… there isn’t one. If you travel with kids, take a sick bag. Take several. Hope for the best, prep for the worst. Assume they will chunder like thunder.

In the course of my interweb travels, I find myself encountering a number of interesting subjects. This next one is directly connected to this blog post and concerns what constitutes ‘true Star Trek‘.

If you click on the tweets you’ll be able to see the entire thread. I’ll offer up my take on it – and I want to stress this is only my personal take on it.

I dare say that the blog post missed the mark a little, as during the course of a discussion on Twitter with the original ‘tweeter’ it became clear just what his position was. Exhibit A, this tweet:

The derision of someone else’s opinion on what Star Trek is and what it means is pure arrogance. It’s not far off outright saying ‘it’s not Trek unless I say so’.

Exhibit B…

This is in relation, regardless of claims to the contrary, to ‘who started it’. It’s pretty much a childish blame game, whilst denying it to be a blame game (see Exhibit C as well). It’s apparently more important to apportion blame than to resolve the issue.

Exhbit C…

Linked to Exhibit B. I can just as easily argue any division is the result of people implying their vision of what Star Trek is should somehow override other peoples’ opinions. This idea that one opinion should be treated as near enough objective fact, whilst baiting/trolling people who disagree, is no different from the very attitudes being criticised in the tweet!

In short, I can easily argue, based on what I’ve observed, that people were so prepared to hate Discovery, even before it had aired, that they were ridiculing fans for being prepared to give the show a chance. Now the show is underway, that rhetoric has only increased.

And for the record, if one of the fans of the show who has been going as far as to issue death threats to people criticising Discovery, you are as bad, if not worse. People are allowed to criticise and dislike Discovery. You can like the show and still criticise elements of it. There’s zero excuse for threatening people who hold different opinions.

Exhibit D…

The nuts and bolts of the ‘#TrueTrek’ hashtag. It seems for Trek to be ‘true’ it must adhere to a particular timeline. Hence the distinction between the ‘Prime’ universe (DSC, TOS, TNG, DS9, VOY and ENT) and the Kelvin timeline (the 2009 movie, Into Darkness and Beyond). It also bears noting that the tweeter here regards and treats Discovery as a reboot, but that flies in the face of official statements on the subject, which, despite pronouncements to the contrary, carry more weight than his opinion.

Of course, the timeline or universe any given part of the franchise is set in has no bearing on whether or not the particular film or show is ‘true’. It’s part of Star Trek lore. It carries and conveys the messages of the franchise. Despite the implication (and despite the attempt to turn it around) that ‘Prime’ = better (Prime can simply mean one or first), Prime does not mean ‘more true’.

And Exhbit E.

I’ll stick by my tweet here, very happily.

Back to Sci-Fi Analysis

It’s a short hop from Texas to Mexico City, for the 18th round of the F1 World Championship, where the title could be wrapped up, quite comfortably, by Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton. He need only finish fifth, even if chief rival Sebastian Vettel wins, to claim his fourth championship.

Sounds easy right? Well, it may not be so simple. Despite the seemingly fast nature of the track, the high elevation and thin air at the circuit means cars will run in high downforce trim. This means Ferrari and perhaps even Red Bull could go faster than Mercedes, leaving open the possibility that Hamilton will have to wait one more round for title number four. On the other hand, there might be enough grunt in that Mercedes engine, over those long straights, to see it through, and Mercedes won here in both 2015 and 2016, so it’s hardly a certainty that the Silver Arrows will struggle.

The track itself is a somewhat sedate version of the track that previously hosted races into the early 90s. The run to turn 1 will provide overtaking opportunities and it was the run into turn 4 that saw some feisty battles between Vettel and Max Verstappen last year. Part of the track runs through the grandstands, providing an absorbing atmosphere, and local boy Sergio Perez is likely to get roared on every on every time he runs through there.

So, will Hamilton win the title on Sunday? Or will there be a twist to the tale?

I regard myself as a second-generation Trekkie (my Mum is a first-generation Trekkie, and she got me into the franchise when I was a kid). I’ve seen pretty much every bit of Star Trek TV and film material, I’ve read several of the books, I’ve owned models, uniforms and toys. I’ve been lucky enough to attend a couple of conventions (thanks Mum!). My love of Star Trek runs deep. Being a part of this fandom makes me feel like I’m part of a truly special, warm and diverse community.

This is, in a way, what the Star Trek shows and movies are. They are a diverse mix, stretching across more than fifty years, all meaning different things to different people. It therefore pains me when I see some fans playing a divisive game on social media.

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Out of courtesy I’ve refrained from revealing the tweeter’s identity, but this sort of thing annoys me. It is anathema to what Star Trek is all about. It is not for me, or anyone else, to decide what is ‘true Trek’. The above tweet represents the desire to take a personal opinion and have it regarded as objective fact. It represents the wish to have one’s personal views override everyone else’s.

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This tweet is in itself an act of trolling. It’s deliberately creating an ‘us versus them’ culture. It’s telling fans of Discovery the show they like isn’t really Star Trek, and there’s the implication that they’re not really Star Trek fans. Such an attitude is incredibly arrogant, and deeply ironic too.

I’m sure there are fans of Discovery who take their defence of the show too far. For the record, they’re just as bad (though I’ve not actually observed any such behaviour directly). If you’re a fan of Discovery and someone else isn’t, just shrug and move on. If you’re not a fan of Discovery, don’t watch it, shrug and move on. Labelling certain things ‘true Trek’ certainly isn’t a sensible or mature approach, and the implication of it isn’t going to accomplish anything. To some, Discovery will be their first taste of Star Trek. To others, including lifelong Trekkies, Discovery will feel every bit as relevant and important to the franchise as TOS or TNG.

See, here’s the thing. As I mentioned earlier, Star Trek fans are a diverse bunch, and the shows and movies reflect that. To some, TOS and only TOS will do. Others might have never seen TOS and their first experience of Star Trek will have been through JJ Abram’s films. Some fans will love TNG and hate DS9 and some will hate ENT but love DS9. There is no ‘true Trek’, there is only different Trek that means different things to different people.

Back to Sci-Fi Analysis

 

meerkat

Behind that adorable face lies a crazed mind. My dreams over the past few days have been a sprawling mess, a chaotic maelstrom of weirdness. Let me regale you with the first tale…

Old Men

I have no idea what was happening here. This dream is a few days old so it’s quite fuzzy, but it seemed to involve a car park confrontation, a small waterfall, some kind of extremely valuable artefact and a set of stairs, as well as confronting an old man with a knife who had masqueraded as an ally against the original bad guy. I have no idea why we were mortal enemies but that’s dreams for you!

Masterchef, Killer Robots and the Apocalypse

Yeah… I can’t link the first part to the rest. One minute I’m a contestant on Masterchef Australia (my wife will tell you why that’s hilarious!), the next I’m fleeing from a Terminator and trying to marshal a bunch of people in shelters to survive a coming nuclear war. Why my subconscious produced such a baffling scenario I don’t know!

The Formula 1 train pulled into Austin with Mercedes on the brink of their fourth consecutive constructor’s championship, and Lewis Hamilton on the edge of his fourth driver’s championship. It also saw Carlos Sainz make his Renault debut, New Zealander Brendon Hartley made his F1 debut with Toro Rosso, and Daniil Kvyat briefly returned to Formula 1, also with Toro Rosso, standing in for a weekend amidst a complicated arrangement involving new drivers and transfers.

It was a typically scinitilating performance from Hamilton over the entire weekend, with the Briton top of P1, P2 and P3, and also top throughout qualifying, nailing his 11th pole of the season. Following an excited American boxing-style introduction for the drivers (which, to be honest, does not suit the sport at all) it was time to go racing, with Hamilton joined on the front row by title rival Sebastian Vettel. The Ferrari man actually got the better start, squeezing into the lead at turn 1, whilst behind the leading pair Valtteri Bottas would almost immediately come under pressure from the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo, with Kimi Raikkonen a little further back in the second Ferrari. Initially Vettel would begin to open up a small gap to Hamilton, but within a few laps Hamilton was reeling Vettel back in, and on lap six, pounced aVt the end of the DRS run into turn 12. Vettel tried to fight back but lacked the pace, leaving Hamilton to open up a gap of his own.

Behind them, Bottas appeared to be struggling but Ricciardo was unable to get by him – the Mercedes had too much power on the straights for even one of the trademark late lunges Ricciardo is so fond of, and the ultra-soft tyres on Ricciardo’s car were getting chewed up in the dirty air behind Bottas. It seemed that the Finn would hold on to third place, at least for the immediate future. Behind all that, Max Verstappen (who had started 16th due to grid penalties) was making his way up the order and a another potential battle was looming between the Force India pair of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez. Nico Hulkenberg was forced to retire early on for Renault, as was Pascal Wehrlein for Sauber. Shortly after his first stop, Daniel Ricciardo joined them.

His engine conked out – leaving him to pull over and park up. It was a disappointing and early end to a race that might have seen him battle for a podium, but it simply wasn’t to be. Car trouble also led to Fernando Alonso – on course to score points for McLaren – retiring as well.

We were treated to a reminder of Sainz’ talent when he came up to the back of Perez. The Force India driver was stuck behind his teammate Ocon, who was in turn being held up by the Williams of Felipe Massa. Perez was in a typically aggressive move, wanting Ocon to move out the way, but his team refused to impose orders. When Massa eventually pitted (leaving it quite late), Ocon was released but Sainz was able to use DRS into turn 12 to pounce on Perez, with the pair racing hard but fair around turns 13 through 19 before Sainz made the move stick. Sainz would take off after Ocon, whilst elsewhere, Verstappen was starting to get dicey with the Ferraris and Bottas. In fact, Verstappen would force Ferrari into a second set of stops, after he himself pitted for the super-soft compound. This promoted Bottas to second, but on softs, so it wasn’t long before he had Vettel, Raikkonen and Verstappen closing in. In fact, Vettel swept between Bottas and a lapped Vandoorne on the exit of turn 1 to retake second place, a move that looked quite good on camera!

Raikkonen also managed to take Bottas off guard a few laps later, leaving Verstappen to trail the Mercedes. It was with a handful of laps to go that Bottas pitted, with the soft tyre unable to generate the desired performance. This released Verstappen to chase after Raikkonen and a possible podium.

Chase he did. Despite the Ferrari having more power, Verstappen was swiftly gaining upon Raikonnen, and soon the two were battling for position, with Verstappen only having a narrow window to make a move and make it stick. That moment would come on the very final lap, through the sweeps and curves near the end of the lap, with Verstappen proving to be very happy with a podium, as anyone would be after starting 16th!

There was however, a sting to the tale. In making his move all four tyres had left the track, which left the stewards with a decision – they gave the young Dutchman a five second time penalty, demoting him back to fourth. It was gutting for Verstappen, who has since hs feelings very clear.

Up front, Hamilton was able to make a one-stop strategy work, closing out a straight forward win that doesn’t quite assure him of title no.4, but puts him on the brink of it. Hamilton now leads Vettel by 66 points with a maximum of 75 remaining. Should that advantage be more than 50 points come the end of the next race, Hamilton will be world champion. His team, Mercedes, did clinch the constructor’s championship, for the fourth year in a row, continuing their dominance of the turbo hybrid era. What will it take to stop them?

Formula 1 returns to Austin, Texas, for the sixth time, and for the second time the venue could see Lewis Hamilton crowned F1 champion – if results go his way.

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When the Circuit of the Americas was designed, inspiration was drawn from several other venues, including Silverstone’s famous Maggotts-Becketts-Chapel sequence, the Senna Ss at Interlagos, and some of Hockenheim’s big bends. The track also features a big uphill charge to the first corner, and turn 1 is a big, beefy left-hander, on one of F1’s rarities – a counter-clockwise circuit.

Since the inaugural event here in 2012, the US Grand Prix has enjoyed something of a boon in popularity, which is good for Formula 1. F1 has traditionally struggled to crack the US market, despite at one stage hosting races at the spiritual home of US motorsport, Indianapolis. The on-going success of the Austin venue might finally mean that F1 can look forward to a long-term presence State-side.

The British are Coming

Lewis Hamilton has won at COTA four out of five times, including the opening race in 2012. The only other winner here is Sebastian Vettel, who won for Red Bull in 2013. Hamilton’s dominance of the venue saw him claim the title here in 2015, following an exciting and dramatic semi-wet grand prix, which including a very bullish push past Nico Rosberg into turn 1, and a late spin from Rosberg to hand Hamilton the win and the title. From 2017’s perspective, a Hamilton win would leave Vettel needing to finish no lower than fifth to keep the title fight alive for another round, whilst if Hamilton were second, Vettel could afford to finish no lower than eighth. Should Hamilton finish third or lower, the title race would definitely rumble on to Mexico.

Wet Weather

It’s entirely possible for rain to impact the race on Sunday. If that happens, it could bring the Red Bulls into play, whilst it could make things more interesting between the Mercs and Ferraris. Rain might also inspire McLaren to a points finish, whereas dry weather, with some of the powerful straights, could hinder them.

Opportunities

The pit straight is a DRS zone, so expect overtakes, or least attempts, into turn 1. If a driver can stay close through the bendy section (turns 3-9), there could be chances at turn 11, whilst turn 12 comes at the end of another DRS zone, so there will be more opportunities there. This could be a good race for overtakes and battles.

img_0710We are now five episodes in to the sixth TV incarnation of Star Trek. I don’t think it wise to judge a show on so few episodes (if we judged TNG by the first few episodes, or indeed the first season, what would we make of it?), however there’s enough material for me to put pen to paper, and offer up my early thoughts on this show.

I’d describe it as something of a slow-burner. The first two episodes don’t involve the main setting (the ship Discovery) and instead forge the backdrop to the show – a war with the Klingon Empire. With each episode, I feel the show has gotten stronger, as we begin to establish the characters. Of particular fascination is Captain Lorca, whose methods are quite different to previous Starfleet captains, whilst lead character Michael Burnham is outwardly methodical, almost to the point of being ruthless in pursuit of what she believes to be the best outcome, but internally conflicted. Tilly is quite a nervous young woman who is trying to overcome anxiety and her character is subtly raising awareness of this issue.

Stamets is a science officer and Star Trek’s first openly gay character in a TV series. So far, his character has not been defined by being gay (always a danger by a well-meaning yet ignorant production), and instead he has cut a frustrated figure, as an arrogant scientist who nonetheless wants his ideas to benefit humanity, yet seems them co-opted by Starfleet to aid in their war with the Klingons.

Saru is second-in-command of the Discovery and this character served alongside Burnham on the Shenzhou, and therefore was present as Burnham committed mutiny and arguably started the war. He is therefore not exactly enamoured with Burnham and their relationship is a tense one.

Burnham (played by former Walking Dead actor Sonequa Martin-Green) is a complex character. Her parents appear to have been killed in a Klingon raid on a joint human/Vulcan facility and she was raised by Sarek (Spock’s father). As a result she has incorporated elements of Vulcan philosophy, such as adherence to logic, however this is overridden – or tempered – by – human emotion and instinct. Burnham is quite prepared to circumvent authority if she believes she is justified, even though this has caused her tremendous problems in the past.

On the Klingons

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They’ve undergone a major visual change, both in terms of their appearance and also their outfits, as well as the décor of their ships (mind you, Federation ships are notably different to the TOS era). Given that the show is set just ten years prior to the events of the original series, this creates a bit of a stylistic issue. I have no problem with modernising the overall aesthetic of the show, but some of the changes have been quite drastic, and I’ve wondered a few times during the course of the show so far, if it might have been better off marketing itself as a reboot.

The F Bomb

The Star Trek TV shows don’t tend to feature swearing, and least of all ‘fuck’. That’s not to say that swearing is completely absent, and the movies (especially the Kelvin-verse films) have featured swears on a few occasions. That said, the F-word on Star Trek was unexpected, but it’s hardly the huge deal (at least, in this meerkat’s humble opinion) that some quarters are making it out to be. There is a perception that Star Trek is and always has been a family show, yet large chunks of Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise moved away from being aimed at a family audience – they might have been about families, this doesn’t mean they were for families. The Kelvin-verse films are not, in my view, appropriate for younger children and it’s an individual judgement call as to whether you let older kids watch them.

I’m also not sure of the action sequences. The space battles have been a touch too disorganised for me, in that I’ve found them a little hard to follow. This isn’t to say they’ve been bad, but I can’t call them great either.

Final Thoughts

I’m warming to Discovery. I’ve read a lot of things elsewhere from people who are determined to hate the show, but then, a lot of these people were determined to hate the show before it had even aired. Not everyone can handle change, yet if Star Trek remained static, it would fade away. Just look at what happened with Enterprise (which was basically an second attempt at recreating TNG, following on from Voyager). Star Trek cannot stubbornly stick to the same approach and expect to remain relevant; nor can it expect to maintain or expand its appeal by sticking to a tired formula. Discovery isn’t perfect, but it is trying to be different, which is no bad thing. So far, 7.5/10.