Saturday, September 13, 2008

2:30 PM

F1 Belgian controversy + No hands driving!

In about 2 weeks time, Singapore will host the F1 Grand Prix. Tickets cost a bomb and local live TV coverage has not been assured. Wil read the outcome from newspapers.

Normally, I dun follow F1 races that closely, due in part of Mediacorp being too stingy on live broadcasts or repeat telecasts. But the recent controversy at the Belgium Grand Prix on 7 September caught my attention.

In summary, McLaren-Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton overtook Ferrari's Kimi Räikkönen at a bus stop chicane during the last few laps of the race. Hamilton won the race while Räikkönen did not finish due to a crash (3:14 of video). F1 officials then later stripped Hamilton of his victory after slapping him with a 25s drive-through penalty for the offence.

Here is a video of the incident. (3:37)

The offence occurred at exactly 1:00 of the video. Another notable moment was at 2:30 when Räikkönen pushed through 2 drivers to regain the lead leaving Hamilton on the grass. Soon after, Räikkönen spun once and recovered, much to the amazement of the commentators!

Rain started as the race was ending. The better rain-suited tires of Hamilton's Mclaren allowed him to catch up with Räikkönen very quickly. You can see how aggressive he was at trying to overtake Räikkönen. Although he gained an unfair advantage by taking the chicane shortcut, he momentarily allowed Räikkönen to overtake him in fairness before overtaking him again at the next turn.

Some have said it was the "worst judgement in the history of F1" for stripping a winner after he has waved the chequered flag. Yet some drivers like Jarno Trulli said Hamilton did really gained an advantage and would not have been able to overtake Räikkönen if not for the chicane advantage.

From the way I see it, Hamilton did gain an advantage. He ceded the lead for awhile, but I think it was too little for such a huge advantage. He should at least let Räikkönen continue with the lead after the next turn.

The situation was made more (or less?) complex when Räikkönen crashed later. Would this incident in some way affected Räikkönen that led to the crash? Since he did not complete, Hamilton's advantage against Räikkönen was no longer a question. It would be worse if Hamilton was ahead of Räikkönen at the finish line (had he completed). The question was whether to penalise him for it due to his advantage against other drivers? It is really difficult to attach an "if" to an extreme cause.

I say a definite yes to a penalty, despite what other F1 fans may scream. An advantage is an advantage. If you have to be fair, let all other drivers use the chicane lah. But I dun think it should be stripping him of a victory. The two drivers were already at the leading position before and after the offence. So it wouldn't cede much advantage to Hamilton being the eventual winner since Räikkönen would not reach the end anyway(assumed italic words above are not a problem).

Mclaren lodged an appeal despite a drive-through penalty being "not susceptible to appeal". I just hope F1 overturns the decision. Instead, I think Hamilton should be penalised in the next race, maybe 10 places down the starting grid or a stiff fine.


Self-driving bus

I encountered in what could be the future of city driving. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley are testing a type of driverless system for vehicles. Right now, a prototype version has been installed on a public bus.

All the details are in this picture. Magnetic markers installed below the road surface help guide the car's computer to drive automatically.

See the real life 5mins demonstration below.

The system is now only able to steer the vehicle with braking and acceleration still in the hands (or legs!) of the driver. The computer is so precise, it can consistently get the bus to be within 1.5cm of the bus stop every time!

Cities like Singapore already have driverless trains, we may one day have driverless buses as well. No more needless jerking for passengers. Just a smoother and more comfortable ride!

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