2013 Formula One season wrapped up

 

Sebastian Vettel won the last stage of the 2013 Formula One season at Interlagos.

Overtakes, accidents, engines blown, drive-thru penalties, records broken, burnouts and good-byes, all packed in the most entertaining and most emotional race of this year.

THE RACE

Sebastian Vettel claimed the ninth consecutive victory equalling Alberto Ascari’s record and 13th in a season, equalling Michael Schumacher’s. Mark Webber didn’t look like a retiring F1 driver at all, offering a great demonstration of driving skills and tenacity behind the wheel, fighting with Alonso. The rest of the field was not less keen on offering the audience something to be excited about, with the known midfielders battling for the points or even further down the standings.

In the early stages, Romain Grosjean’s Lotus blew the last V8 engine ever, leaving a thick layer of oil smoke behind him. Massa, while in fourth, was (unfairly in my opinion) penalised with a drive-thru for cutting the white line that marks the pit entry. This decision might have possibly had an effect on the final constructors’ championship results. Later on, Hamilton got the same treatment after causing a collision, which put an end to Bottas’s race. Confusion at the Red Bull’s box when Vettel pitted but the team was waiting for his teammate to come in, causing both of the cars to lose important seconds. Alonso, who pitted as well, could overtake Webber but it took only a lap to the Aussie to regain his second position.

In conclusion, it was the best race of the season, as it often happens at Interlagos, also due to the unpredictable weather conditions throughout the whole weekend.

THE GOOD-BYES

Mark Webber is leaving Formula One to join Porsche in the Le Mans programme. I will miss his outspoken comments about his team and Vettel, but today everybody paid their tribute to him. I still remember his first race in Melbourne 2002, finishing 5th and getting Minardi two, fundamental points. In my opinion, he deserved the 2010 world championship more than both Vettel and Alonso for how he resisted until the end in a team clearly focused on his teammate. His celebration on the podium, today, was epic.

Felipe Massa is moving to Williams. Similarly to Webber, he’s been criticised a lot since 2010, but at the end of the day, he was world champion for 30 seconds in 2008 and showed great skills until his 2009 accidents. And since he announced his move out of Ferrari, his overall performance got better. Basically, he went from hero, to zero, to hero again.

Other good-byes see Ross Brawn possibly leaving Mercedes; there are rumours of him having talks with Domenicali for a possible comeback to Ferrari, but I see it unlikely to happen.

Perez has been sacked by McLaren after just one year. I honestly cannot understand this decision, especially considering what a bad car the MP4-28 was. A move back to Sauber will mean an all-Mexican team in 2014, maybe?

Other moves include Maldonado leaving Williams and possibly Formula One together with Di Resta and Sutil, Hulkenberg going to Lotus, but everything is still a big mess there. We shall wait and see.

THE ENGINES

As much as I have never liked these V8s since their introduction in 2006, I am not looking forward to next year’s ‘Formula Dyson’. The new 1.6L, V6 turbo engines will surely have all the necessary power, but they will be lacking of the sound that made V8s (and even more V10s) so great. Unfortunately I have never heard a V12 F1 engine in person. It was interesting to see Grosjean’s engine blow up, although I am sure it was a tribute that the Frenchman would have preferred not to pay!

THE BURNOUTS

I have to admit, I am glad to see Vettel celebrating at the end of these few last wins with some good old wheel spins. Similarly, I liked Webber taking his helmet and balaclava off in the cool-down lap. As he told in a post-race interview, in F1 it is hard for a driver to show his emotions. Well done to both!

Well done to Marussia for finishing 10th in the standings and to Chilton for being the first rookie to finish every race in a season.

All I can say is that I wish my best to Webber in his new adventure, to Massa in a hopefully improved Williams (powered my Mercedes engines) and of course to Ferrari for putting up a decent car and team. I cannot wait to have Alonso and Raikkonen in the same team!

See you in March!

PS: congratulations to the photographer who took my cover’s picture. He surely earned his bread today!

Catholic? Atheist? No, Ferrarista.

 

I was disappointed for the nth time by my favourite team, yesterday.

I have been a Ferrari supporter for ever; I do not remember a period in my life that did not involve being surrounded by red cars. The Scuderia is like a faith for me, for several other thousands of people in Italy and outside Italy.

Reading around blogs and forums on the Internet, it appears that foreigners think of the Tifosi as a particular kind of supporters. Passionate, tough, really committed.
To be honest, however, I have spoken many times with people of other “beliefs”, such as Williams and McLaren fans, and I do not see any difference in the type of support we give our own favourite team.

Maybe, the real difference is when we, the Tifosi, gather; that is when the true spirit of the Ferrari community stands out. That happened, for example, when I went to Maranello to watch the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, decisive to assign that year’s title. The atmosphere was incredible, even when, at the end of the day, we were all frustrated by the outcome of the race.

That was one of the worst weekends of my life, with no jokes. And yesterday it was even worse.

I am based in London, which means no fellow Tifosi around me. I set my TV to watch the race, my laptop with the live timing on and I put on my Ferrari shirt. It was raining outside and I had already had a bad day for other reasons, so I was really looking forward to spend a couple of hours watching my favourite sport.

I cannot say I truly believed Alonso could win the title this time, but after such an unpredictable year, and an equally unpredictable race as it developed, belief was starting to grow inside me. My screams and cries filled the silence the house was immersed in.

After the race was over, I felt like I had been dumped by my truly beloved girlfriend. The one that you know “she’s the one”. The one that changes your mood, the one that you are ready to do everything for. I know this might sound silly, or childish or just… weird, to people who are not like me.

But for me, and many other Ferrari supporters, this is what Ferrari is. Ferrari is what can turn a bad day into a good day. Or a good day into a bad day. Ferrari is what distracts you when you need a break from anything else. Ferrari is, as I said, a faith. It is my faith.

And it is going to be like this forever. I do not know if the Tifosi are really different from other supporters, I do not think so. All I can say is that I am proud to be a supporter of this team, for better or worse.

If Ferrari was a girl, she would definitely be the one.

Oscar Pistorius? Not here, not now.

August 4, 2012: the day that Oscar Pistorius entered the Olympics.

The 26-year-old South African athlete gained the access to the semi-final of the 400-metres after finishing second in his heat with a time of 45.44 seconds. This day has everything it needs to be remembered as a great day of sport, doesn’t it? Not really.

Pistorius should not compete at the Olympics, and the reason is simple: he does not meet the necessary requirements, which, in his case, means the absence of both of his legs. Being affected by a malformation to the legs since his birth, he got both of them amputated when he was 11 months old. He has been running with a pair of hi-tech carbon-fibre prosthesis, and the first important event he took part in was the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games.

However, since then, he has become popular on a worldwide level for his will to take part in the Olympic Games, starting from Beijing 2008. Why this choice? Why not compete in the Paralympics, which were invented and created to allow disabled athletes to compete on an international level, supposedly at the same level of importance as the Olympic Games?

Surely Oscar Pistorius is a media phenomenon. He is not the first disabled athlete to compete at the Olympics: George Eyser, gymnast from the USA, was the first. He competed at the 1904 Saint Louis Olympics and he won six medals, despite his wooden leg. There was also Oliver Halassy, who, between 1928 and 1936, won two gold and one silver medals in water polo. He did not have his left leg. Ildiko Rejto, Hungarian, between 1960 and 1976 won five medals in five different Olympics she took part in, as a fencer. She was deaf.

What stands out from this list is that, in the first two cases, we are talking about a period when the Olympic Games surely did not have the importance and the international relevance they have today. I am also, and especially, talking about the huge sums of money involved. Whilst the third case, Ildiko Rejto, is perfectly acceptable: a deaf fencer is not much different from a fencer who can hear. That is not disabling and does not put you in a position of disadvantage.

Talking about Pistorious, then, the question is how important a pair of carbon-fibre legs, in a running event, is. The answer is pretty obvious: it is fundamental, since there is no other way to run, except with your legs.
As a friend of mine said, while discussing about this topic on the Internet, the organisers always try to set the races so that they are as fair and equilibrate as possible. How can you explain the able-bodied competitors that an athlete with no legs is competing with them?

There is a root problem here: are not the Paralympics supposed to be as important as the Olympics? Weren’t they thought to be an opportunity to the disabled athletes? The point is that either Pistorius has some people behind him who push him because of some “interests” (you should read: the sponsor Nike), or the Paralympics are not as important as the Olympics, and the athletes themselves know it.

And this is my opinion, too.I would like anybody to name one single Paralympic athlete except Oscar Pistorius or Alex Zanardi, who is very popular in Italy. This former car-racing driver lost both of his legs in a terrible accident in 2001. He got two prosthesis implanted, and he was lucky enough to keep doing what he liked most: driving cars, even though with special aids.

The throttle, brakes and clutch were activated by hand, with paddles on the steering wheels and a lever on the gearstick. Surely it was not easy work. However, after his first win in these conditions, in 2005, some people rumoured about his “special aids”. After retiring from races, he dedicated to handbiking, and he is going to take part in this year’s London Paralympic Games.

He is just one of the thousands of athletes to respect for their force of will. Pistorious is a great athlete, undoubtedly. He could easily be considered the “Usain Bolt” of the Paralympics. If only he competed in the Paralympics.

Allowing him to compete at the Olympics was neither a humane act, nor a step forward in terms of “political correctness”. Allowing him at the Olympics means wronging all the thousands of unknown disabled athletes who ingenuously think that their performances are as important as the “normal” ones, for the media.

We all know this is false, and thanks to Pistorious, we have now the proof.

Alonso wins in Germany and strengthens his leadership in the world championship

The Spanish and Italian anthems sounded in Hockenheim after Fernando Alonso won the German Grand Prix ahead on Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button. The Spaniard won after starting from pole position, conquered with  majestic lap on a wet Q3 session, on Saturday.

The leadership has never been put on doubt, even though the gap between Alonso and Vettel first, and Button then, reduced to less than one second at certain points during the race.

Vettel gained the second position with an overtake at the second-to-last lap; however, this is currently under investigation because the German went outside the track after the hairpin turn.

Kimi Raikkonen finished fourth after a consistent race, followed by both of the Saubers. Webber is just eighth, while Lewis Hamilton retired after a difficult race affected by a puncture in the early stages.

Following this victory, Alonso is now 34 points ahead of Webber and 36 ahead of Vettel, while in the constructors championship, Red Bull is still first with 238 points, Ferrari second with 177 and McLaren third with 157, just one point ahead of Lotus.

The next race, in just one week, is in Hungary, where the Red Bulls are favourite for the win.

What’s up with Italians and football?

The latest European football championships have just confirmed a well-known fact: Italians love football.

Or, better said, Italians live for it. Football is taken too seriously, and many people identify themselves as Italians only in case of an international sports competition.

In these times of crisis, when the news are occupied by the updates on the new taxes that are being introduced and by the spread index with Germany that is out of control, football is seen as a way to “relieve the pain” within the population.

One example is that Italy’s victory against Germany in the semi-final of the 2012 Euro cup has been seen as a revenge over Angela Merkel’s attitude towards the Mediterranean country, guilty of being one of the major causes of the current Euro crisis.

“Ciao ciao culona” (Bye bye fat ass) was the headline of Il Giornale, in reference to what Silvio Berlusconi said about the German Chancellor on the phone, caught by the police when they were phone tapping the former Italian Prime Minister (“She’s an unfuckable fat ass”).

Also, the match result had a direct impact on the markets, according to some journalists. Mario Balotelli, who scored the two goals for Italy, apparently succeeded in doing what Prime Minister Mario Monti could not, since the former succeeded in reducing the Italy-Germany spread, as reported by many national news agencies.

When a sport receives so much attention, it becomes a double-edged weapon. As a matter of fact, in case of a defeat of the national team, as it actually happened, the tone of the articles gets very serious, with no equal for other news in the country. With the media putting so much pressure on an activity that should be intended as an entertainment only, their influence on people can be highly negative. As a consequence, Italian football supporters tend to be some of Europe’s toughest, after England’s famous hooligans were cut down in numbers thanks to some effective laws from the 1980s to the 2000s.

Violence, riots and street brawls are the contour of many football events. The Italian government tried to put a halt to football violence in 2009, introducing the “Supporter’s ID card”. This card contains the owner’s personal details, and it is the only way to get a ticket, which contains your details as well, and to enter a stadium. Or, at least, this was the intention. In fact, you can easily buy a ticket outside the stadium from touts and still enter using someone else’s credentials, since nobody would probably check your ID.

Inside the country, no other sports are as popular as football. Formula 1 and MotoGP follow in order of preference thanks to Ferrari on the one side and rider Valentino Rossi on the other, but nothing can be compared to the numbers of football. Most of the young people play football as a regular activity, and football is also the most-viewed sport on TV. And TV is actually the first accused of “manipulating” people’s minds: there are countless shows about football, on national and local channels, where hosts and guests argue about this sport as if it was the country’s first issue.

Football, as well as banks, Church and industry, can be considered a proper lobby which is able to influence the country’s politics. The parliament, in 2003, had to vote the so-called “save-football” law, through which the State saved all of the Serie A teams, deeply in debt, from bankruptcy.

At the end of May 2012, during the betting scandal that involved major managers and players of some important football teams, Mr Monti suggested a two-year halt for this sport, which is too often involved in scandals of any kind, stating that “the consequences of such a decision would be nothing but good.”

Shocked replies were not long in coming: Maurizio Zamparini, President of Palermo football club, said that “the only shameful thing in this country is Mr Monti himself!” Actually, football has now gained such great importance in the country’s system, that a stop would be a disaster. The turnover, considering the two major leagues only, Serie A and Serie B, and the betting system, is around six billion Euros, or 5.7 per cent of Italy’s GDP. It also employs 500,000 people, which is surely an important figure to take into consideration.

Football, then, has transformed from a mere entertaining activity to a large chunk of the market that needs to be preserved and protected. Many Italians are more interested in their favourite football team than politics.

Comparing the figures provided by the research agency Demos, 33 per cent of the population trust the political institutions and follow the political activity, while 45 per cent say that they support a football team. In recent years, the two figures have had a negative trend as a consequence to the wave of political discouragement for the first, and the latest betting scandal for the second, but this highlights what really matters in Italy. Especially in times of crisis, people need to be distracted: panem et circenses, bread and circuses, was the response of the Ancient Roman Republic to the needs of the people.

Today, in the modern Italian Republic, we content ourselves with circuses only.

Alonso wins in Malaysia

Fernando Alonso gained an unexpected victory at the Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday.

The Spaniard won ahead of Sauber’s underdog Sergio Perez and poleman Lewis Hamilton.

The heavy rain affected the race, which was interrupted after only nine laps due to visibility and safety problems. After a 45-minute break, the race was started again under the safety car.

Fernando Alonso, who started from 8th, gained advantage by his strategy, since he changed his tyres to the “Intermediate” compound before all of the others.

The right choice made at the right moment allowed him to take the leadership of the race with large advantage.

Nevertheless, he was helped in this by the fact that the current leader, Jenson Button, had to head back to the pits to change a tyre flattened after a contact with Narain Karthikeyan, who was surprisingly in the top ten.

From this moment on, Alonso started to gain more and more advantage over the others, while Perez, who started from 9th, was able to maintain his second position.

None of the big contenders (McLarens, Red bulls and Felipe Massa) were able to keep up with the pace of the first two drivers, who put more than 15 seconds between them and the rest of the group.

However, Perez was going to catch Alonso in the last laps of the Grand Prix, when his team told him “Be careful, this result is very important to us.”

Maybe distracted by this radio announcement, he made a mistake going wide when he was almost behind the Ferrari driver.

Not a big deal: he could recover but he was unable to catch what would have been the first victory for him and for his team.

“It’s an unbelievable result for us, today,” Alonso told in the post-race press conference. “We were not competitive in Australia, we were not competitive here, so it’s an unbelievable result.”

However, as he admits, “this changes nothing. We are in a position that we don’t want: we want to fight for pole positions, for victories. There is still much work to do on the car, but we trust each other a lot in the team.”

The championship now sees the Spaniard first, five points ahead of Hamilton and 10 on Jenson Button, who scored a none, as well as reigning champion Sebastian Vettel.

The circus will move to Shanghai for the Chinese Grand Prix, on the 15th of April.

 

Team GB kits launched

The official Team GB kits for the Olympic Games were launched on Thursday at the Tower of London as part of the merchandising campaign by official supplier Adidas.

The kits, designed by former Beatle’s daughter Stella McCartney, have been designed for all of the 26 Olympic sports, but particularly interesting is the football jersey.

In fact, this is the first time a Great British team will take part in the football competitions, so it is quite a collectors’ “must have”.

However, the Northern Irish, Scottish and Welsh Football Associations have discouraged their home players from taking part in the Team GB, warning them against the fans’ backlash.

Indeed, this has been one of the most controversial choices made by the British Olympic authority, and surely one of the least popular.

Despite this, Welsh players Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale have posed with the Team GB jersey on, regardless of their Association’s warnings.

The jersey will be sold at an arguable price of £52, making most of the fans unhappy, also if we consider that the junior jersey will be sold at £42, and the shorts at £26.

As part of the merchandising campaign for the Olympics, the kit selling will play a huge role in funding the Games.

However, none of the Olympic Sports associations will receive a penny from this, since the British Olympic Authority sold their marketing rights to Locog (the London 2012 organising committee), in 2004, for £30m.

As reported on The Independent website, Locog is planning “to raise just over £2bn, the cost of ‘staging the games’” –which means, providing the sports equipment for all of the activities, the uniforms, the medals etc.-

However, at the end of the games, 60% of the revenue surplus, if at all, will be given to the British Olympic Authority; but they don’t expect to have any.

Ciao Super Sic

Seven days after the death of the British driver Dan Wheldon at the IRL race in Las Vegas, the world of the motorsports has to deal with another tragedy, this time among the two-wheels: Marco Simoncelli, “Super Sic”, as he was known to the Italian supporters, dies during the second lap of the Malaysian Grand Prix.

After a fast right turn, the rider loses control of the bike which, quite strangely, instead of sliding towards the outside, heads to the inside, crossing the whole track andbeing hit by Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi’s bikes. The helmet was pulled away by the impact, and the rider remained lain down on the tarmac, with his curly hair clearly visible on the TV screen. One hour later, the official announcement of death was made by his father, Paolo, who had just exited the Sepang Medical centre, where Marco had arrived in critical conditions, with a heart and respiratory failure.

Torno a scrivere in italiano, dato che non c’è altro modo per esprimere le mie sensazioni dopo questa notizia; studio giornalismo da poche settimane, ed una delle prime regole che mi hanno insegnato è che un giornalista deve essere imparziale, neutrale e raccontare i fatti. Ma io, prima di tutto, da molto prima che pensassi a intraprendere studi di giornalismo, sono un appassionato di sport motoristici, e questo fatto non posso metterlo da parte.

Anche se la mia passione sono le quattro ruote, non le due, quello che provo in questo momento è un nodo alla gola, una sensazione difficile da descrivere ma penso che sia condivisibile anche da tanti altri appassionati. È un po’ quello che mi successe dopo la morte di Marco Pantani: il ciclismo l’ho sempre seguito abbastanza saltuariamente, quando capita una corsa importante mi piace seguire la telecronaca della tappa, ma il mio interesse finisce lì.

Però, il giorno della morte del “Pirata” ricordo che provavo la stessa sensazione di oggi, quel misto di sconforto e tristezza per la perdita di un personaggio sportivo: anche se i due sono scomparsi in circostanze ben diverse. È strano, ma la prima cosa a cui penso in questi casi è che non vedrò più il suo nome nelle classifiche.

Quello del motorsport è un mondo bastardo: ti dà tanto, tantissimo, ma si può prendere anche tutto in un attimo, il tempo di una curva impostata male e conclusa peggio. È stato così con Simoncelli oggi, con l’incidente che ha causato la morte di Wheldon sette giorni fa, con Tomizawa l’anno scorso a Misano, con Senna al Tamburello a Imola 1994 (anche se in questo caso il discorso da fare è infinitamente più lungo). E negli innumerevoli altri incidenti nel mondo dei Rally, delle altre Formule e di tutte le categorie minori di cui nessuno parla.

Il motorsport è pericoloso: si possono cercare tutti gli accorgimenti possibili, le misure di sicurezza attive e passive, ma il caso non si può prevedere. Non ho mai creduto nel destino: credo invece che, oggi, come negli altri casi, il “Sic” si trovasse nel posto sbagliato al momento sbagliato; quella piega di qualche grado eccessiva, la manopola dell’acceleratore troppo aperta, gli altri piloti che sopraggiungevano.

Non parlerò delle misure di sicurezza che si sarebbero potute prendere e che si dovrebbero prendere dopo questo incidente, ma voglio solo dire che si può fare ancora tanta strada: è inconcepibile che un casco, progettato e costruito per questi livelli, si strappi e che la testa del pilota rimanga esposta senza protezione. I medici hanno detto che il collo di Marco recava i segni della ruota, e probabilmente il fatto che il casco sia saltato via non ha influito molto; la cosa, però, resta preoccupante.

L’anno scorso il pilota giapponese Tomizawa, 20 anni, quest’anno Simoncelli, 24. Ragazzi, miei coetanei, morti facendo quello che piaceva loro fare; ma ciò non toglie tragedia alla tragedia. È difficile spiegare il mondo delle corse a chi non è appassionato, e non ci proverò neanche. Ma, di certo, non ci si deve fermare dopo questa ennesimo dramma, anzi: è uno stimolo a cercare di fare di più, dove possibile.

Le interviste nel paddock denotano uno sconforto generale per la perdita di una persona diversa dalle altre, quasi uscita da un’altra epoca, amica di tutti: avversari in pista, non fuori. Senza scadere nella retorica, credo che questo “personaggio” (nell’aspetto e nel modo di fare) mancherà a tanti, anche tra i non addetti ai lavori, e a me in primis (alla fine di ogni Gran Premio non vedevo l’ora di sentire dalla sua voce il resoconto della gara, semplicemente perché il suo modo di fare era diverso dagli altri).

La famiglia ha chiesto di poter donare gli organi del figlio: un ultimo atto di generosità che non potrà essere compiuto a causa dell’arresto cardio-respiratorio che ne impedirà l’espianto.

Ciao Super Sic, ci mancherai.

British racing driver Dan Wheldon dies at Las Vegas Indy 300 race

British racing driver Dan Wheldon died yesterday, during the Las Vegas 300 IndyCar race, after a massive accident that involved 15 cars. The 33-year-old driver from Buckinghamshire, England, was running in 26th when, at lap 13, he bumped into the accident that had been caused by two cars touching on one of the track’s four bank turns: the collision, at approximately 200 mph (320 kmh), was inevitable. He lost control of his car, as it started to fly in the air and hit the wall, catching fire together with several others.

This is only the latest of a series of fatal accidents that has happened in US race championship: Indianapolis is the track that numbers the World’s highest number of deaths (56), followed closely by Nürburgring (48). Both of them are very old circuits, who have been poorly updated from their original shape.

The problem is that, while Formula 1 has abandoned (unfortunately, I would say) these historical but dangerous circuits, or it has made many efforts to improve their safety, American championships keep racing in these death traps.

This fatal accident happens in the last race with the current single-seater cars, provided by the Italian company Dallara. In July, they won a competition with three other manufacturers to build the “car of the future”, i.e. the car that is going to be used for the next 6 to 8 years.

The new car will have a lower cost, a higher efficiency and, most of all, new safety features such as endplates behind the rear wheels in order to prevent cars from taking off, when they touch wheel-by-wheel: which is exactly what happened yesterday, and which is the major cause of injuries (or worse) among open-wheel competitions.

Dan Wheldon won his second consecutive Indianapolis 500 earlier this year, while he won his only IndyCar championship back in 2005. He is survived by his wife and two sons.

 

Click on the link to watch the video of the accident.

http://cdnapi.kaltura.com/index.php/kwidget/wid/1_avi81raz/uiconf_id/5590821

 

 

 

Sources: www.guardian.co.uk, http://www.indycar.com/news/show/55-izod-indycar-series/38526/