The 2011 Mark Webber Rant

I wrote this in November 2011 but never published it… So rewind and it may make more sense.

It’s no secret, I’m one of Mark Webber’s biggest fans. A disappointed fan, at the moment, but still his biggest fan.

I’m fairly new to this amazing sport we call Formula 1, having only “discovered” it two years ago, and following it religiously for the past twelve months or so.

I’m quite vocal about Mark’s standings this season, not having landed a #1 finish, and having a number of issues with his racing strategy and starting issues. On the other hand, Mark has consistently produced finishes in the top five or so drivers, and sits at fourth in the championship. And it makes me wonder, how can he be so consistent, yet not achieve a win in the 2011 season?

I have varying views on Redbull Racing as a team, and their support  for Mark. Certainly, in the 2010 season, Mark was recorded famously for his remark, “fantastic drive, not bad for a #2 driver” in response to his win at Silverstone in 2010. A catastrophic array of events in the 2011 season begs the question, “is he getting the support he needs”, with his most recent drive in Abu Dhabi being set back by a poor tyre/pit strategy, and perhaps more damaging, a horrible pit stop where the rear left wheel nut was dropped.

Certainly in 2011, Mark is the #2 driver, with Sebastien Vettel’s outstanding 14 wins and championship victory, overshadowing Mark’s prowess in the final leg of many of the races. In one such incident, Mark was very quickly gaining ground on Sebastien in the remaining laps of the race, Christian Horner came over the radio and requested Mark to “maintain the gap”. These team orders infuriated Mark and his fans alike, albeit a sensible decision for the championship. And it is just that, infuriating.

I’m hoping Mark will pick up a few more wins in the 2012 season. I think he is a great driver, very consistent, and very entertaining to watch when he is going head to head with other drivers. It’s a real shame he hasn’t been able to excel as much as his team mate, and I can only dream of him taking the championship next year.


Pirelli mixing up the tyre game again in 2013

It appears from last nights Free Practice sessions (FP1 and FP2) in Malaysia, that Pirelli has really cooked up some funky tyres this year. The past few years have been the same story, new season, new recipe, new issues. But I think we’re in for an interesting one this year.

The Australian Grand Prix saw perhaps a really interesting turn with the super soft tyres. Those who started the race on the SS tyres, were pitting in the first 7-10 laps, showing these tyres just aren’t as durable as last year (from memory, we were looking at 10-15 laps for the super soft tyres).

I’m unsure how many laps had been done on the hard tyres when I clicked on the TV last night, but the hard tyres used in Malaysia are having massive issues with thermal degradation, and there were numerous shots of tyres with bits of rubber just flapping around.

In the middle, we have the medium tyres. And what do you know, these look damned good. At the Australian GP, we were seeing 20-30 laps out of these tyres, so I expect this will be the preferred tyre for most races. Interestingly, this weekend we have the hard and the medium tyres available, as well as the intermediate and wets just in case the track gets a little damp (which it probably will).

Kimi Raikkonen did a fantastic job of tyre management last weekend, and this allowed for him to pull off an amazing two stop strategy which handed him the win. One thing is for sure, making the tyres work, and getting the absolute most out of them, is going to make or break this championship.

Some brief observations:

  • Kimi Raikkonen has great tyre management and great pace
  • Sebastien Vettel has good tyre management and great pace
  • Mark Webber has poor tyre management and good pace
  • Fernando Alonso has good tyre management and great pace
  • Lewis Hamilto has good tyre management and good pace

Australian F1 GP Post Analysis

Kimi had a great win, and his experience here over other drivers shows. It’s not so much his driving, but his tyre management, and ability to drive on tyres that could be worn out more than other – definitely something learned and carried over from his WRC days. It’s great to see Lotus getting a win, and I’ve previously said on here, they are going to be one very competitive team this year. Great work! Grosjean didn’t seem to have the same speed he had last year, but I expect him to continue to be quick this year when he settles in to the new car.

Regarding Red Bull, they had their issues. I am a massive Mark Webber fan and was severely disappointed with his start. McLaren have owned up to this, as the ECU manufacturer for every car on the grid, as something went skewif with his on the formation lap and ended up ruining his start. Unfortunate, I was hoping it would be his first home win, or atleast, better than fourth. I’m a firm believer in “anyone but Vettel”, so no comments there. He also had a great drive as usual, but Red Bull in general still can’t match Kimi’s tyre management skills. This will be an early season issue which will affect all teams as they understand how the tyres work.

McLaren appear to have a much slower car, with Button only finishing in 9th (he took out 1st place last season), so this was an appalling start for them. Perez finishing lower confirms the car just doesn’t work too well…yet. They’ll catch up as the season progresses, and they understand the car, and of course, tyres.

Mercedes seem to have brought another fantastic car to the grid this year, with Hamilton (unfortunately) doing a great job. Rosberg also finished with points (correction: no he didn’t – but his performance up to his retirement was strong) which shows the car is strong and competitive. They will be a strong contender for the championship this year IMO.

Anthony Sutil’s performance surprised everyone, and I’m glad to see him back in a car. Him and Paul Di Resta are very competitive drivers, and last years Force India performance saw them moving up into points finishes for most races. This season should see them continuing to get points, and I expect some podium finishes from both drivers.

And lastly, Ferrari. Fantastic start to the season for them, and Felipe Massa’s performance was second to none. He blew me away with his performance, having suffered alot of criticism for his poor performance last year. Both Massa and Alonso will be fighting for the championship this year, Alonso coming in to the season as the favorite to win this year, on par or second to Vettel.

Great opening race for the season, and I’m sure I’ll be posting alot more this season to add my analysis as a devout “die hard f1 fan” :)

For lots more F1 news and commentary, check out the “I’m a Die Hard F1 Fan” page on Facebook

CASE WHEN “I need to learn more T-SQL” THEN GoogleTheResult() END

One of my favorite recent discoveries in my SQL Server work recently, is the awesome T-SQL “CASE…WHEN…THEN” statement. I can’t describe how much I love this thing.

It’s pretty simple really:

WHEN fruit = 'apples' THEN 'not oranges'
WHEN fruit = 'oranges' THEN 'not apples'
ELSE 'neither apples nor oranges'
END AS fruit
FROM fruits

As can be expected, for every row where the column is set to “apples”, this will output “not oranges”. For those with the value “oranges”, it will output “not apples”, and of course, any other value (such as “bananas”) would output “neither apples nor oranges”.

To make things more interesting, you can combine the comparison portion (i.e. x = y) with any WHERE based comparisons, such as:

  • X IN (value1,value2)
  • X >= 7
  • X =1 AND >=27
  • X+Y>27 OR ISNULL(Z,0) = 0
Using the comparison, you can even output different columns as the result. I.e.
  • WHEN columnA is null THEN columnB
  • WHEN columnA+columnB > 27 THEN columnB/(SELECT MAX(columnA) FROM TABLE)

Thanks Google. I really love this statement, it’s allowed for some pretty funky complex T-SQL scripts recently, and made my life alot easier!

Backing up all SQL Server user databases to file

The ultimate lazy backup script. I wasn’t feeling to selective about which databases to backup, and I figured, it’d be best to back them all up, even that testing database I occasionally use for data import/export. Never know when I might need it again…

This sits inside a SQL Server Agent job, and runs nightly. Simple enough really.

All works as expected on SQL Server 2012.

DECLARE @Database varchar(max)
DECLARE @path varchar(max)
SET @path = concat(N'D:\BACKUP\',convert(varchar,getdate(),112),' ALL DATABASES BACKUP.bak')
select name from sys.databases where database_id>4
OPEN my_cursor
INTO @Database
BACKUP DATABASE @Database TO DISK = @path WITH NOFORMAT, NOINIT, NAME = N'SQL Server all user databases backup', SKIP, NOREWIND, NOUNLOAD, STATS = 10
INTO @Database
CLOSE my_cursor
DEALLOCATE my_cursor

I’m sure there’s a better way to do this, but there doesn’t appear to be a column in the sys.databases table which denotes a database as a system or user database. Instead, I’ve used the WHERE database_id > 4 – which removes master, model, msdb, and tempdb from the backup.


On moving to Seattle…and reviving my camera…

I left the homeland, Australia, in early January. My employer proposed an opportunity of a lifetime, and alas, here I am now in Seattle, the capital of IT for those Microsoft-ies among us.

One of the things I am passionate about, is photography, and it is on that note of visiting a new city, that I have pulled out my trusty Canon EOS 5D, and put the most expensive toy I own to use. So without further adieu, I present to you, the best of the best of my Seattle photography.

Formula 1 and performance enhancement – an unknown culture

Overnight, the social media world was given an insight into the tough life of being a Formula 1 driver. Sergio Perez, McLaren’s new wonder child, tweets, “pff early morning , they just came to do Doping Test”. Fernando Alonso also tweets, “06:42h. Control antidoping.” A tough life.

It had never crossed my mind whether Formula 1 drivers were engaged in the use of performance enhancing drugs. The inherent safety requirements in Formula 1, and the party life associated with it, never really tweaked my curiosity. One would think, the drivers would simply be smart and responsible enough, to stay clear of anything that could jeopardize the safety of themselves or others on the track, and as such, the party life generally starts on Sunday afternoon after a big race, not the Friday or Saturday night beforehand. Focusing on performance, drugs and alcohol obviously having their own detrimental affects, could a Formula 1 driver gain a competitive advantage through the use of performance enhancing drugs, or other doping methods?

Throughout history, Formula 1 has had it’s fair share of controversy. Money, politics and safety are regular topics of controversy in this sport, with some drivers earning some $20million a year for the privilege of driving the fastest cars in the world, world fame, and “that party life”. But for this privilege, a driver must be at the top of his game.

The official Formula 1 website states:

“The vast loadings that Formula One cars are capable of creating, anything up to a sustained 3.5 g of cornering force, for example, means drivers have to be enormously strong to be able to last for full race distances. The extreme heat found in a Formula One cockpit, especially at the hotter rounds of the championship, also puts vast strain on the body: drivers can sweat off anything up to 3kg of their body weight during the course of a race.”

The likes of Jenson Button, Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso to name a few, are proponents of social media, and will do nicely as an example of how much training goes in to being a Formula 1 driver. As a Mark Webber fan, I closely follow his posts, and his off season training regime. Perhaps one of the more “out there” drivers, Webber operates what is known as the “Mark Webber Challenge“, a grueling 350km event combining running, cycling, swimming, rock climbing and abseiling. Webber’s own participation in this event is truly a testament to the fitness level of a Formula 1 driver. Button and Alonso are also keen sporters, with both regularly updating the social media sphere with their training regimes, whether it’s a casual bike ride or professional shoots from their gymnasiums.

Lance Armstrong’s recent fall from grace, caused a profound ripple in all aspects of sporting. The IOC went so far as to suggest the removal of cycling from the Olympics, and perhaps every other sporting organisation around the world began cracking down and investigating the use of performance enhancing drugs and doping almost immediately after Armstrong’s admissions. As an Australian, I was disgraced by what was subsequently announced as a number of our domestic sporting teams having engaged in performance enhancement programs. It is perhaps no surprise that Formula 1 at the peak of motorsport, also came under fire.

Webber posted the most profound article in response to Armstrong’s downfall, and it was evident that Webber was unimpressed.

“I got to spend some time with Lance, did some rides with him and went to his ranch when I was in Texas after the 2004 Brazilian Grand Prix.

It was such a big thing for me at the time. I jumped into Dead Man’s Hole with him and some of his mates; it’s a place he describes in the book as making him feel alive after his cancer survival.”

As perhaps one of Webber’s mentors, Armstrong had failed him once before, but the admission (and original defiance) was the nail in the coffin for Webber. Webber goes on to note that the continued defiance, cheating of the system, and the treating of all of his fans/followers as mere “idiots”, gains Armstrong zero respect, and that karma eventually has its turn.

With such a vocal article, the disappointment and disgust, at least from Webber’s point of view, is evident. He paints a picture that surely depicts himself as a clean Formula 1 driver. Webber’s own fitness and outgoing sport involvement is truly down to hard work, and it is evident from other driver’s postings on social media, that they too spend hours training every week, ensuring their bodies are up to the challenges of Formula 1.

In addition to Webber’s own grilling of Armstrong, he also commented on November 2nd 2012 in regard to Moto2′s Anthony West, a fellow Australian, who had been found to be using the stimulant Methylhexaneamine. Webber goes on to say, “I’ve always been championing the idea to do more of it (drug testing), but the FIA have never really been that strong on it. … You know, with what’s at stake, the money involved and all that type of stuff, people do things.”

The FIA medical delegate, Jean-Charles Piette, comments that “if a soccer player takes some drugs, it is a risk to his health, but not to the team or to the spectators. In a motor race, if a driver takes some drugs, the potential risks are not only to the driver, but also to his colleagues on track, to the spectators, the marshals… They have to consider people beyond themselves.” It is evident that Formula 1 would have a low tolerance of drug use, but at present, very little is done about it – instead it is perhaps part of the en-grained safety aspect of the sport, and drivers are perhaps more ethical in their training and preparation.

Kate Walker, in the same article, comments “cheating scandals in the paddock tend to be about the machine, and not the man behind the wheel.” Certainly, the 2011 and 2012 seasons proved this to be the case, the likes of Adrian Newey’s technical brilliance at Red Bull consistently coming under fire for pushing the boundaries of the FIA regulations with regards to numerous features on the RB7 and RB8, as well as teams such as Mercedes with their “double DRS” technique in the 2012 season. The focus is almost never on the driver cheating, but who has the better car, or, whose car fits within the stringent FIA regulations. Very rarely does the driver come under fire, unless an on track driving infringement occurs.

Certainly performance enhancement is an aspect of Formula 1 that is grossly overlooked. Drivers are expected to be incredibly fit and well conditioned for the sport, and it is evident that some drivers take this more seriously than others, mostly through legitimate physical and mental training and conditioning. Some drivers simply know how to drive better, also, and this may be a result of their own mental training combined with experience.

What is perhaps overlooked, is the other possible uses of drugs and doping in the sport. Fitness and raw performance is often the most notable goal, but in a sport as demanding and fast paced as Formula 1, drivers require very high levels of concentration and quick response. These are perfect areas for the use of performance enhancing drugs, to improve a drivers reaction, to make them more alert and to have somewhat of a mental advantage over other drivers. But the risks of such drug use are relatively unknown. Back to Piette’s comments:

“We have some drugs in medicine that can help you focus attention,” Piette reveals. “…Legal and illegal drugs. Some of the former are employed for rare brain disorders where you find you sleep abnormally to help make people alert. This is also used in the Army, by commandos, to stay awake for consecutive days. So that’s part of it. And these kinds of drugs are tested for.”

Safety is an aspect of Formula 1 that through the years has caused mass controversy,  notably (and, sadly, only) for the deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna at the Sanmarino Grand Prix in 1994. It is a sad testament to the sport that a death of a great was required to introduce radical safety reform, but the sport will be forever grateful for Senna’s safety concerns leading up to his death. Performance enhancement is just another safety concern which is yet to be addressed, and it should not again be an issue of “when someone dies” for reform to be introduced into the sport.

In a highly competitive and professional sport such as Formula 1, there is no place for performance enhancing drugs and doping, but is it only a matter of time before someone gets caught out? What is evident, the culture of drug use (if used at all) within Formula 1, is unknown, and we may never know.


Server Posterpedia Windows 8 Application

You’re designing a new SQL Server infrastructure for a client, but can’t remember if that high availability solution topology requires shared storage or not, and need to quickly look it up without searching through TechNet. How? With this application! Some genius has combined all of Microsoft’s server architecture posters into a handy Windows 8 application which is now available on the Windows App Store here

Windows 8 Without a Tablet? Nonsense!

Today, Microsoft launched Windows 8 to the masses. And I’m frustrated.

Over the past year, I have had the opportunity to play with Windows 8, blowing away my daily work laptop and installing the new operating system at each release – beta, release preview, consumer preview, and RTM.

Yes. A laptop. Not a touch screen tablet. A laptop with a keyboard and an external mouse. My experience could be likened to running Windows 8 on a standalone desktop PC, with a separate external mouse and keyboard. This is how I work on my laptop, this is how I work on my desktop. And Windows 8 lets me do that with very little change. Continue reading


Ferrari to up their game for an “aggressive” end to the season

Ferrari chief designer Nikolas Tombazis says his team will adopt an “aggressive approach” to its car development over the final four races now that Fernando Alonso has fallen behind Sebastian Vettel in the drivers’ championship.

Is it too little too late for Ferrari? My first impression of this announcement was, why didn’t Ferrari progressively develop their car throughout the season? Continue reading

MCSE Private Cloud, MCITP EA & VA, IT professional, Motorsport & F1 addict, security/hacking enthusiast