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The new generation of F1

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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The new generation of F1 | Thaiger

PHUKET: Far from the boiling heart of Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur, wrapped in the steamy green of endless palm oil plantations, lies another heart. It doesn’t beat all the time like the city, but when it does, it pounds hard and loud and forces adrenaline to course through the veins.

Sepang International Circuit, found 13 kilometers from Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), is the heart that pumps fuel through the arteries of the potential 80,000 racing fanatics and speed junkies that the venue can hold. Inaugurated in 1999, the track hosts a number of big-ticket racing events, including the Moto GP Malaysian Grand Prix, A1 Grand Prix, Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix and a number of other major races.

The 5.5km-long track is known for its unusual design and environmental challenges that the cars and drivers are confronted with. High temperatures, high humidity and frequent precipitation pose unique problems for racing teams to solve.

This year’s F1 Malaysian Grand Prix saw racing teams with a whole new host of challenges to contend with, as many F1 fans are certainly aware of. Coming off the heels of a seven-year stint utilizing 2.4 liter fuel injected V8 engine configurations, the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) has changed many of its stipulated rules, including the engine designation. Now, teams representing Mercedes, Ferrari, Lotus and more, have had to go back to the drawing board to see what they can squeeze out of a 1.6 liter turbo-charged direct injection V6.

To further complicate the vehicles, which are considered the crowning glory of open-wheeled racing cars, the FIA has also deemed it necessary to double the output of the energy recovery system (ERS). Implemented in 2009, the ERS has a similar function to regenerative braking systems found in consumer hybrid vehicles. Previously, the system provided about 80 horsepower for 6.67 seconds per lap – now those numbers are up to 160 horsepower for 33 seconds per lap, leaving it up to teams to carefully develop strategies for finding the appropriate time to take advantage of this extra power.

imageFormula One racing regulations have undergone drastic changes in the 2014 season. Photo: Jeremie Schatz

The regulations have undergone more changes, both mechanically and physically, such as a minimal weight that is 49 kilograms heavier, variations in body structure, different exhaust specs and, notably, a maximum fuel usage per race and flow per hour. This last change is quite the contrast compared to the unlimited fuel consumption allowed before, to the 100kg per race cap that is now enforced.

In case you haven’t gleaned the message from all of the latest regulatory changes, the new generation of F1 racing is about doing more with less. Efficient. Fast. Smart. This is the new mantra. Are people accepting the changes with open arms? Not so much. A big complaint, somewhat surprisingly, is the different sound of the engines. A smaller turbo-charged engine sounds much more like a screaming jet than the roaring gurgle of the previous V8s. This may be a judgment being passed by those who are only watching the races on TV, but I can assure you, they are plenty loud in person and certainly continue to exude a sound of raw power, but perhaps more refined.

Contrary to prior concerns, the cars continue to be ridiculously fast, reaching speeds upwards of 300km/h. Although lap times are slightly slower, drivers are still settling in to the new cars and honing the strategies which will enable them to utilize the cars to their full potential. After all, the Petronas Grand Prix at Sepang was only the second race of the season.

So what makes racing at Sepang challenging? To start with, the track is located in equatorial jungle which is blistering hot most of the time. The huge turbos, which can push 50psi, which is three to four times that of a consumer turbo-charged car, have to work harder to build compression as air density is inversely proportional to temperature. Of course, the entire engine will run hotter, reaching upwards of 900-degrees Celsius, making many aspects of efficiency, reliability and power production difficult to control and maximize.

The tropical humidity found at Sepang is palpable, to say the least, and poses another hurdle for teams to contend with. The day before the Grand Prix saw drivers racing in the qualifiers in 33-degree heat accompanied by an oppressive 94 per cent humidity. Even when it is not raining, which it often does to the dismay of all involved, the track is slick and subjects drivers to a learning curve in order to adapt their braking, acceleration and cornering to the reduced traction.

imageCELEBRATION: Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg douses teammate Lewis Hamilton following their seond and first place finishes at Sepang on March 30. Photo: Jeremie Schatz

The racing world is buzzing, or maybe shrieking, about all of the new changes and regulations. Some are concerned that Formula One is being reduced from an adrenaline-drenched, head-to-head, elite racing showdown to an over-conservative procession of sissy-sounding Prius’ burdened by stifling regulations.

However, there are a variety of perspectives to view these changes from. Yes, the engines are smaller and quieter, but the end result is a greater weight to power ratio than before. Drivers have access to a considerable amount of extra power that they must use sparingly and strategically. And maybe the cars aren’t as loud, but it is a sound with purpose… and they are still painfully loud in person. F1 racing is far beyond raw, furious power. It is full of strategy and sophistication, and the new sound is the refined auditory representation of the product from the world’s leading automotive engineers.

The new bodies are not only works of art, but safer. The fuel restrictions show two things: that the FIA isn’t afraid to change and continue to develop the sport despite the naysayers, and that instead of force-feeding fuel to big engines, they aim to prove that engineers have the ingenuity to create machines that can do the same thing, if not more, while consuming considerably less. The fact that teams were previously allowed eight engines per season, which has now been reduced to five, further reinforces this point.

There you have it. Things have changed, and maybe F1 is now less like arm wrestling and more like chess. Some will hate it, but some will interpret the next generation as a step towards the future. They will lose some followers along the way, but those who can appreciate the sport’s desire to push the limitations of the latest technology to the limit will witness the evolution of intelligent automotive racing unfold.

— Jeremie Schatz

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Tourism

Phuket’s July Sandbox no-quarantine model “needs a major revamp”

Tim Newton

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Phuket’s July Sandbox no-quarantine model “needs a major revamp” | Thaiger
PHOTO: The monsoon waves are starting to hit Phuket's west coast

Thailand’s Sports and Tourism minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn is acknowledging that Phuket’s ‘Sandbox’ model for a no-quarantine re-opening in July will need “a major revamp”. As the Songkran travel bubble bursts and the monsoon season waves start to roll onto the island’s west coast beaches, Phuket’s scheduled July re-boot suddenly seems a long way off.

Minister Phiphat says he plans to meet with “all related agencies” this week. Apart from the latest national re-surge in new infections, Phuket has been unable to get its hands on sufficient vaccines to meed its deadline of 70% of the island vaccinated by July 1. Thailand’s limited supplies of the vaccine – including some 930,000 doses designated for Phuket – are being rerouted to other provinces as the government prioritises the limited supply.

“We are all concerned about the reopening timeline,” he was quoted in Bangkok Post.

But the Minister did acknowledge that, if the 70% vaccination level couldn’t be met, they may consider opening some areas of the island. Exactly how that would work hasn’t been revealed at this stage.

The minister also brought up the ongoing travel bubble negotiations and says he hadn’t heard back from some of the candidates with their reaction to the current outbreak.

Flights in and out of Phuket Airport’s international terminal have been extremely patchy and the flights from feeder tourist markets will need to co-operate with any re-opening plans.

Phuket, whilst suffering a rise in new infections, hasn’t been hit as hard as some of the other popular holiday provinces, like Chiang Mai, Chon Buri (Pattaya) and Prachuap Khiri Khan (Hua Hin).

This year’s Songkran was going to be a major stepping stone for the island’s recovery and many hotels, some who had opened especially to cater for Songkran holiday traffic, noted a lot of cancellations just prior to the break.

But some island hotels have still reported high occupancy rates over the past week. One Manager, who did not want his name published, said that their hotel was almost full with Thai patrons, most who had pre-paid for their flights and accommodation and decided to go ahead anyway.

Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, the president of the Phuket Tourist Association, says that they are opposed to any lockdown as it would cripple the island, with its tourist businesses already suffering greatly. He stated that 15% of people cancelled their Songkran bookings, while 30% had postponed their trips.

The Sports and Tourism Ministers is still in quarantine after having close contact with Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob, who was diagnosed with Covid-19 2 weeks ago.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Phuket begs Kolour attendees to come for Covid-19 testing

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Phuket begs Kolour attendees to come for Covid-19 testing | Thaiger
FILE PHOTO: Kolour in the park was more pleasant in 2018 before Covid-19.

Health officials in Phuket put out a public statement this week compelling all foreigners who attended clubs and Kolour events to report for Covid-19 testing. As many might expect, the response has been lacklustre at best. Spreading the message around the foreigner and expat community in Phuket, the message is aimed at the multitudes of people, mostly foreign who attended Kolour and related events that turned into a Covid-19 superspreader event. Many foreigners have not come forward, much to health officials chagrin.

Online and on social media, foreigners and Thais shed light on why this urgent public health request is going largely unheeded. Foreigners fear the repercussions of coming forward, especially since Thailand is not allowing staying home or elsewhere in isolation if someone tests positive for Covid-19. Quarantine is mandatory, and with infection numbers exploding across the country, many fear the less-than-posh comforts of being quarantined in an emergency field hospital.

Cost is the other factor that likely is preventing foreigners from turning themselves in to be tested for Covid-19. While Phuket health officials may test people for free, anyone found infected with Covid-19 will be financially responsible for all the costs of their treatment and quarantine. Foreigners with limited financial resources, especially after a year of holing up in Thailand to ride out the Coronavirus, may resist reporting to authorities when they cannot afford the mandatory quarantine and medical treatment.

Perhaps recognizing this hesitation, the message includes a plea for all attendees to self-quarantine and self-monitor for any symptoms over the next week, even if they fail to report or test negative. The note also reminds everyone to wear masks in public at all times. The statement to the public also instructed anyone who attended any of the Covid-19 spreading nightlife events to report to the Acute Respiratory Infection Clinic area of Vachira General Hospital to receive a Covid-19 swab test.

SOURCE: The Pattaya News

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Pattaya, Phuket and Hua Hin brace for increased restrictions

Tim Newton

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Pattaya, Phuket and Hua Hin brace for increased restrictions | Thaiger

Three of Thailand’s biggest expat areas are seeing sharp rises in new infections, partly from pre-Songkran traffic. The Songkran holidays, now officially over (but will see many people taking today off and making a weekend Songkran extension), and the government says they are expecting to see a rise in the cases numbers reported in the popular holiday locations.

Chon Buri Public Health office says they now have a total of 910 infections since April 1. They have 103 new cases in the past 24 hours. Most new cases are in Bang Lamung district which includes Pattaya City with 47, Siracha with 12) & Chon buri City with 8.

Pattaya, Phuket and Hua Hin brace for increased restrictions | News by Thaiger

Meanwhile Phuket has a total of 142 infections recorded on the island with the Governor still insisting there will be no need for a lockdown. Here’s a breakdown of the areas and the numbers of recorded infections so far (below).

Governor Narong announced that the Phuket Infectious Disease Control Committee won’t be implementing an official lockdown, but will “strictly raise the intensity of public health measures to counter the spread of Covid-19″.

“Everyone should wear a face mask, maintain social distancing, wash their hands frequently and install the Mor Chana app (available for free from App Store and Google Play Store).”

A meeting of the CCSA, chaired by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha is expected to upgrade restrictions in red zone areas around the country, which includes Phuket and Pattaya. Read more about the latest red and orange zones HERE.

Pattaya, Phuket and Hua Hin brace for increased restrictions | News by Thaiger

For Hua Hin expats, there’s been 100 new Covid-19 infections announced in Prachuap Khiri Khan in the past 24 hours, 75 cases from Hua Hin. This takes the total in the province since April 1 to 625. Hua Hin accounts for nearly 90% of the district’s total cases.

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