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Automania by Dr. Iain Corness
 

What did we learn from the Brazilian GP?

Well, we saw that we have a triple consecutive World Drivers Champion (WDC) in Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, who drove with maturity and finesse to end the year three points in front of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. Vettel joins the talented group consisting of Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher and in addition became the youngest triple champion. With the maturity that age brings, I expect Sebastian Vettel to win even more championships.
So to the race - once again the Brazilian GP was a stormer, with much nail-biting and edge of the seat action, though the finish under a Safety Car and full course yellows finished the action a lap early.
With Vettel being turned around on the first lap, it looked as if his WDC chances had gone, with the rousing cheers of the Alonso fans. However, he fought back and at the end deserved his title. His push from last to P6 in eight laps is the stuff of champions. And he also showed some humility, even admitting to crying on the slowing down lap. Now, if we could only get him to stop pushing that index finger up everybody’s nose!
Alonso was philosophical about losing the WDC, and was my pick for the title. He has matured so much from the ‘sulky Spaniard’ as I used to call him a few years ago. Alonso saying, “The team kept me constantly updated about Vettel and, towards the end, I was hoping something might happen to him or Button which would allow us to reach our goal. It didn’t happen and we must accept the result delivered on the race track.”
Sentimental favorite for the race win was pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), who looked to be in charge initially, but was worn down by Nico Hulkenberg (Force India) who had made some very good calls on his tyre choices in the wet weather. Unfortunately, he and Hamilton tangled and Hamilton had to walk home and out of his secure life at McLaren, trudging on his way to Mercedes for 2013, and if 2012 is any indication, relegating himself to the mid-field. While Hulkenberg was given a drive-through penalty for the indiscretion and finished fifth.
The very deserving winner was Jenson Button (McLaren) who shows not only maturity these days, but consummate skills in driving smoothly in adverse conditions such as the Brazilian GP. Button said, “I spent so much time speaking on the radio to my engineer, Dave [Robson], trying to understand what was going to work and what wasn’t.” Between them, they certainly did work out the best combinations.
Third was Felipe Massa (Ferrari), who has really returned to form, even to out qualify Alonso, and is now an accomplished team player. “The team kept me informed all the time about what the situation was on track and on what could be useful to do in the fight for the championship: I think I did the right thing, for my team and also for my fans.” The only thing he could have done further was to run Vettel off the track, after Senna (Williams) botched his attempt at it. Senna also botched any chance he had of retaining the drive with Williams.
On his final F1 drive, Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) did finish in the points and even let countryman Vettel through to take sixth. It had not been a triumphant return for the seven times champion, but you can put that failure down to 99 percent car and one percent driver.
Kobayashi (Sauber) finished ninth, after bouncing off a few cars on the way to the finish, but the likable Japanese driver will not be at Sauber next year, having run out of seat sponsorship (read “money”).
Hopefully the 2013 championship will be as entertaining as 2012.


Want a cheap Roller?

Roller going cheap?

Rolls-Royce claims used Phantom values “will not drop further” following price reduction of the new model.
In Australia, price cuts of up to $280,000 - perhaps the largest price cut in Australian motor industry history - seem bound to have an impact on used vehicle values, but Rolls-Royce is attempting to refute this, saying, “The market already reflects the reality of the new transaction pricing and we do not think it will drop further.”
Is this then the bargain of the year? An ex-demonstrator 2011 Phantom Drophead convertible with just 850 km on the clock has been advertised in Melbourne at $897,848 - a difference (or “loss” if you were the first owner) of $452,152 from the original list price.
OK, that’s for a secondhand demonstrator, but the new price structure is also cheaper than before. As a result of the price changes, a new Phantom is now (only) $855,000 for the standard sedan - a $213,000 saving.
Of course, some of the astronomical pricing for this iconic brand (and these days owned by BMW) comes from the customer options, such as 44,000 exterior paint finishes and “limitless” interior options for wood veneers, leather styles and colors, plus monogrammed embroidery and fiber-optic ‘starry sky’ roof lining with a choice of constellations.
The new Series II Phantom also has more on-board technology such as LED headlights, upgraded sat-nav, and an eight-speed automatic transmission that R-R claims reduces fuel consumption by 10 percent. (As if owners of these cars costing just short of a million dollars would really care about fuel consumption!)
Rolls-Royce says the decision to cut the pricing of the RR brand reflects the sustained strength of the Australian dollar, which despite sometimes awkward decisions by the political party in power, has held its head up in the world financial markets.


New A series from M-B

New A-Class from Mercedes-Benz.

The upright A box is now a thing of the past, with the new A Class from Mercedes Benz, which was shown in Bangkok last week. I was no lover of the previous model which looked a bit like a Honda Jazz on steroids. And an overpriced “Honda Jazz” at that. It was quirky in its styling and has been fairly rare on our streets.
The new A Class is quite different from its predecessor, and is now an E-Class that has been on a diet. The corporate grille announces it as a Mercedes-Benz, but the car is only 4.3 meters long.
Suspension is likewise very Mercedes with MacPherson struts at the front and a multi-link set-up at the rear. There are three diesel engines with a 1.5 liter, two 1.8s and a 2.1. There are also four petrol engines: two of 1.6 liters and two of 2.0 liters. The suspension settings are in the chassis options, with ‘normal’, sports and ‘comfort’.
Buyers will have to adjust to the new concept of A-Class, but with prices around 1.8 - 2 million Thai baht, we could see more of this new iteration than the previous one.


Will Thailand really get a Formula 1 race?

F1 lighting.

The information that we are in the running for an F1 race has brought out plenty of rumors. One that has resurfaced, after about eight or ten years, is that a new track is to be built in Chonburi province, complete with a five star hotel and a racing complex which can be used for other categories. This was make-believe then. It is still make-believe now.
The ‘real’ situation is that Bernie Ecclestone, always on the lookout for a quick buck or two, “sells” the licenses to hold an F1 race. That license is not cheap, running into several million dollars. Bernie has also said that any Thai F1 race will be a street race, and will be held at night. And don’t start to think that we are going to get F1 race cars at Bang Saen either. (However, with Sonthaya Kunplome being the real mover in Bang Saen, he is putting forward the idea of two meetings there per year, up from the current annual event.)
Back to Bernie - the cunning little chap has said the (proposed) Thai F1 race will be in Bangkok, with Ratchadamnoen Avenue and the Victory Monument in the track layout. Now envisage, if you will, Bangkok City laborers erecting safety fences all along the roads to be used. How many days of gridlock will this bring?
Now we come to the small problem of lighting. Illumination of the degree required for F1 is a bit more than a 60 watt bulb on the end of a bamboo pole.
Taking the Singapore experience as a guide, the lighting system for the track uses 1,500 lighting projectors powered by 12 twin-power generators. The 24 generators are fitted in ‘special protected areas’ and will power, in addition to the lights, the PA system as well as the track’s monitoring equipment. An estimated 3 megawatts of power is required for the event’s lighting system. And how much for that lot?
Now, will that bring a benefit to Thailand, with hordes of spectators coming to watch? The Grand Prix in Australia loses millions every year. The new track in Korea has lost money each year, to the tune of 36 million dollars this year. Germany says they can’t afford to run their GP without the government picking up the shortfall. France ditto. Spain ditto. And so it goes on.
China gives away grandstand tickets, just so the stands don’t look empty. Ditto Malaysia. And while I am on about tickets, how much for a ticket to the UK venue Silverstone? That will set you back at least 7,250 Thai baht. Or Malaysia, that works out to be around 10,000 Thai baht. Now then, how many ordinary Thais can afford those sorts of ticket prices. Not many, and they will be giving away tickets so that they don’t lose face. However, major projects such as this do lend themselves to a little bit of skimming!
I estimate the cost to stage a GP here in Bangkok to be about 12 billion baht, plus the cost of the lighting. So, do you think we will have a GP? I don’t!


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

What did we learn from the Brazilian GP?

Want a cheap Roller?

New A series from M-B

Will Thailand really get a Formula 1 race?