Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Here we go!

When I started this blog just over two years ago, I was about to move to Leeds and embark on the journey that is university life. Having just looked back at my first post, it seems REALLY strange looking back at it. I mentioned how I'd managed to cram most of my possessions into a couple of boxes and bags, moving away from home for the first time and the hope that there'd be more entries to come on this page.

Fast forward to where we are now...and I'm about to take the next step in the life of a modern languages student: the year abroad. So we're back to a slightly familiar situation. This time, I'm trying to figure out what I do and don't need and fitting my life for the next few months into a suitcase. I sincerely doubt I'll be returning home until Christmas unless something major crops up. I can just plan to there and then reassess at that stage...maybe after Christmas, I can think about packing some clothes for when it'll get a bit warmer again.

The major difference, aside from being more stressed than I think I've ever felt before, is that I'm not just going across the country from Liverpool to Leeds. This time, I'm off to Germany. In the grand scheme of things, it's still not actually that far so I do wonder sometimes what the stress is about. Maybe I've not planned ahead well enough and I left myself with too much to do just a day or two before. Actually, thinking about it...that's probably what happened.

And of course, I definitely managed to continue with this blog. As weird as that may sound, I'm quite happy that I was able to keep this going over the last two years. I considered branching into video entries and sticking stuff on YouTube but that never really happened and I've always toyed with the idea of moving into podcasting. That hasn't happened yet, but I can see that changing in the next few months. That's the next evolution and step forward of the blog.

I've got a fair bit to do once I get over to Hamburg tomorrow morning, but I'm feeling quite content with the way things stand. I've got a job, I've got somewhere to live, I've got a hostel to cover me for tomorrow night until I can move into the flat...that's all sorted. Then I have to do all of the wonderful formalities like registering and opening a bank account which will no doubt be a joy, so hopefully I can make a start on these things tomorrow and Friday.

From there, I've got the weekend to settle down and sort myself out before I start work on Monday. I'm still not completely sure what my role will be, so that's a surprise to look forward to. And of course, on a personal note, I get to watch my first F1 race live with German commentary. Or, you know...I'll completely cheat and find an alternative way of watching with English commentary. Who knows.

Elsewhere, we looked after Maisie and Joseph yesterday while Cheryl was at work so it was nice to be able to spend some time with the kids before I flew off. To be honest, I don't usually connect too well with Maisie since we don't share an affinity for Hello Kitty and Disney princesses (I know, how can she not like them?!) but we got on fairly well yesterday. It's rather typical that it happens just as I'm about to not see them until Christmas. Such is life!

As things stand, I'm pretty much packed up. It's time to buckle up and enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Counting down the days

Summer keeps ticking along, and it seems to be going relatively quickly. I could be talking complete rubbish (and it certainly wouldn’t be the first time), but it feels as though individual days can drag by quite slowly but the grand concept of time and summer is going by quite quickly. Maybe that’s helped by the fact that I’m counting down to a variety of different things, with the main countdown obviously leading to me flying off to Hamburg at the end of August...I don’t know, maybe I am talking crap.

I’ve had a slow couple of weeks really. There’s been nothing major to really stand out as a huge event. But as I get closer to August 30th when I move out to Hamburg, things are already starting to pick up. I've been playing cricket on Saturdays for the last few weeks, and while I haven't been performing brilliantly (read: I’m not going to get a call up from the ECB based on my batting performances), I've had fun...and that's meant to be what matters. I think. But I'm trying to improve with each game. I'd like to think that I've become a better fielder, and for some reason, the team has an ounce of faith in me since I spent a good chunk of last weekend fielding in catching positions. The week before that, I actually held onto a catch which is surprising since a few days before that, I’d been nothing short of atrocious when at nets doing some catching practice. Still, saving it for the matches is better than the other way around!

Everything’s starting to fall into place for Germany though. My flight is booked, the flat is pretty much sorted out, I’ve got a date for moving in...all I need to do is sort a hostel for one night and then pack my bags, board a plane and go. I’m really looking forward to going out there. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t...but then I’d also be lying if I didn’t say I’m more than a little bit nervous about it. I don’t think I’d go far enough to say I’m scared, but there are more than enough butterflies in the stomach.

I’m not the first person to get these worries, and I’d guess that more than a few people share similar worries. I worry that I’ll get out there and I’ll hate where I’m living, I worry that I’ll be rubbish at my job, I worry that I’ll realise how little German I actually know. That’s all they are though...they’re just worries. They’re (hopefully) not going to turn to reality.
But then, there are so many positive things to look forward to. Moving to a different country for 12 months is both something really exciting and terrifying at the same time...but I get the feeling I’m really going to enjoy it. It’ll be a new experience, as will the concept of working a full time job, but there are so many things to look forward to. I’m planning to do a variety of things over the year, whether it’s going to gigs and shows (the 16 Carat Weekender has no excuses to not happen!) around Germany, going to motorsport events such as the F1 race and Le Mans or just going to visit other cities and see some new places. I’ll meet new people and I’ll get to know people who I don’t know too well and find some new friendships.

Thinking about it, I’ve now only got two weeks left until I board that Lufthansa flight (other airlines are available)...and I’ve got some good things lined up like PCW’s anniversary show on Friday and Futureshock’s huge show from the RNCM, more cricket on Saturday at Mossley Hill (weather permitting) and I’ll hopefully make it to a day at Aigburth for Lancashire’s game a few days before I leave.

I’ve written another piece for Pure F1 since the last blog about innovation in the sport. I might see if I can get the pieces published on a few more websites like that to try and get more readership, comments and feedback on the work. It’s one of those things, I’m not exactly hoping to get an offer from Autosport about it, but it’s always nice to see what other people think and get discussion going. Mentioning Autosport, one of their articles published earlier today was about how pole position was still important in 2012, looking at the statistics of winners from pole and the front row of the grid. I’d just like to point out that I was in there first guys, I posted something on that same topic a few weeks ago with a lot of the same information/stats (though you’d expect that). I’ll assume that’s a good thing if I’m writing something that Autosport deem significant enough to write about. I must be doing something right!

I'll try and make sure the gaps in the blog aren't so great from now on. Even if I just return to writing every fortnight, it's better than having gaps of three weeks or so. Consistency is important on this, writing helps me get and develop ideas and I can share thoughts with the world.

Enjoy what you do and make the most of everything. Opportunity is everywhere, you just need to grab it.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

The importance of pole position

In previous years, pole position was thought of as one of the most important things in a race. If a driver was able to secure pole position on a Saturday afternoon, then all they would have to do was make it to the chequered flag on Sunday and they would be in with a very good chance of winning the race. In recent years though, with the return of a ban on refuelling mid-race and the introduction of KERS, DRS and Pirelli tyres, overtaking is at an all-time high. So, is pole position still as important in 2012?

Changes to the sport were introduced in 2011 in an attempt to spice up the racing and encourage more overtaking on track, as organisers, teams and fans became increasingly disillusioned with processional races featuring very little on-track overtaking, with the majority of positional changes occurring in the pit lane. In the last two seasons of racing, overtaking has seen a welcome return to races and while the action may sometimes be artificial and passing can be too easy with DRS at some circuits, processional races are largely a thing of the past.

As a result, the importance of pole position can be seen to have changed. Starting on the front row is no longer a driver’s best chance of picking up maximum points on race day as they must now have to manage their fuel load, look after tyres and potentially defend against drivers behind them able to use DRS when trying to pass.

Between 2004 and 2010, there were 126 Grand Prix with 67 of those won by the driver starting from pole position. This does not account for anomalies such as wet races which are notoriously more unpredictable and can throw ‘surprise’ winners, but a success rate of over 50% for a driver starting from pole position going on to then win the race is an impressive statistic. The driver starting from pole position will, in most situations, have the fastest car and would therefore be quite likely to go on to win, so this figure shouldn’t be too surprising.

During this time, the sport came under criticism for uneventful races with on-track action largely being limited to the opening few laps. With the cars becoming increasingly advanced and with engineers and designers looking for any way to add down force to the cars, overtaking was a rarity. It became common to witness cars unable to pass, trapped in the dirty air of the leading car and unable to use a speed advantage. According to some in the know, it was estimated that a car needed to be anywhere up to two seconds a lap quicker than the car in front to be able to pass on track.

Since the changes in the regulations to help aid overtaking, the starting grid hasn’t always reflected the positions at the end of the race. Looking at the figures from 2011 though, a familiar story is painted: of the 19 races held during the 2011 season, 9 of them were won from pole position. This was helped by the dominance of Sebastian Vettel in Qualifying, allowing him to lead races from the front and control the pace to never be in danger of being overtaken. So despite the fact that 2011 had more overtaking than ever before, pole position was still the best place to start the race.

At the halfway point of the 2012 season, six of the eleven races to date have been won by the man starting on pole position. Once again, the figures suggest that even with DRS and Pirelli tyres, the fastest man on Saturday is well placed to go on and win. Even where pole has not been converted into victory, the pole sitter has only failed to finish on the podium; Vettel in Canada (4th) and Valencia (DNF).

History suggests that pole position is a great position to start the race from and understandably so. The driver starting at the front will be in the fastest car, has a clean run to the first corner and has a great chance to lead the race. From this, he can look after his tyres and conserve fuel, turning up the revs when required to try and remain clear of the 1 second window needed for the chasing pack to use DRS. Even with the changes in regulations, exciting races and more overtaking than ever before, pole position remains as important as ever.