Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix 2019

F1 Japanese Grand Prix 2019

Mercedes took victory once again at the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, but it was Valtteri Bottas who took the chequered flag as the winner, his first victory since Azerbaijan back in April 2019. This victory combined with Lewis Hamilton taking third place, secured Mercedes’ sixth successive constructors World Championship title, which shows their dominance since the introduction of the V6 turbo hybrid era of F1.

Qualifying was canceled on Saturday due to Typhoon Hagibis, pushing qualifying to just four hours before the start of the race on Sunday, which was gusty, but bright and sunny after the Typhoon had passed through the area. The result of the delayed qualifying was a front-row lockout for Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel outpacing his young teammate Charles Leclerc, then the two Mercedes, Bottas in third, Hamilton fourth, followed by Max Verstappen and Alex Albon of Red Bull in fifth and sixth respectively.

It immediately unraveled for Ferrari with Vettel clearly jumping the start, however, the German avoided a penalty, as he was again stationary when the five lights went out, and suffered a terrible start, losing the lead to Bottas, dropping back to second, having to defend from teammate, Leclerc, Hamilton, and Max Verstappen. The other Ferrari of Leclerc drifted wide into Verstappen on the outside of turn 2, causing significant damage to his Red Bull, tipping the Dutchman into a spin. The Red Bull driver eventually retired from the race on lap 15, suffering a distinct lack of pace, and to save the power unit miles.

Leclerc and Ferrari elected to continue on instead of pitting to replace his damaged front wing, ignoring the requests of the FIA. Which came back to bite Ferrari on the ass with a 10 second time penalty for Leclerc and a €25,000 fine for Ferrari. Initially, the stewards came back with ‘no further action necessary’, before Leclerc and Ferrari ignored the stewards instruction. Leclerc got an additional five-second time penalty for his part in the lap 1, turn 2 incident with Verstappen, dropping him back behind the Renault of Daniel Ricciardo, who charged through the pack, from 16th to finish 7th on the road.

If Ferrari had followed instructions to pit Leclerc for repairs at the end of lap 1, it’s likely that no penalties would have been applied. It was clearly dangerous, with the Ferrari’s front wing endplate flying off and hitting Hamilton’s car, breaking the Mercedes right-wing mirror clean off. In my opinion, Ferrari was lucky to get off so lightly, Leclerc could have been disqualified, and/or Ferrari a much more significant fine.

Honestly, after the first couple of laps, it was static for the podium places, pit stops happened, no overtakes on and off track. Hamilton did get close to Vettel for second place, but could not pass despite having fresher softer tires fitted on his Mercedes towards the conclusion of the race.

Outside of the top 3 runners, Leclerc was carving his way through the field, making several passes into the Spoon Curve, to fight back from last place to sixth place on the track. Daniel Ricciardo, who started on the yellow marked medium tire, stayed out for 31 laps, making it up to sixth place, before pitting and changing to the red marked soft tires and dropping back to 11th place. From where the Aussie battled back to seventh place on the track, later being promoted to 6th place because of Leclerc’s time penalties.

Special mentions for Alex Albon and Carlos Sainz in the Red Bull and McLaren for finishing in fourth and fifth places respectively, kinda a quiet race from both drivers, but very solid results. It’s nice to see McLaren challenging for more than minor points, it’s a shame that Lando Norris was taken out of the equation on lap 4 when he and Albon tangled, costing the British driver dear, finishing in 13th place.

Finally, there was the FIA screwup with the showing of the chequered flag on the digital boards around the track. Which meant, due to rigid rules, the race result was rolled back one lap, meaning that Racing Point’s Sergio Perez, who crashed out on the final lap, ended up being classified in 9th place. Clearly, it was an error by someone behind the scenes, and all drivers continued on like it hadn’t happened, so the FIA need to ignore it and classify the race on lap 53 as scheduled. What if Hamilton had passed Vettel on the final lap? that would have surely caused a massive stink, causing F1 even more embarrassment.

Japanese Grand Prix 2019 Results

1. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 1:21:46.755
2. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +13.343s
3. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +13.858s
4. Alexander Albon (Red Bull) +59.537s
5. Carlos Sainz (McLaren) +69.101s
6. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) +1 LAP
7. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +1 LAP
8. Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso) +1 LAP
9. Sergio Perez (Racing Point) +1 LAP
10. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) +1 LAP

Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix 2019

Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix 2019

Normal service has been resumed with Mercedes claiming another 1-2 finish, Lewis Hamilton obviously winning the race, Valtteri Bottas is the clear #2, Hamilton’s wingman, as proven in the last race in Singapore, being told to slow down, so Hamilton would come out of the pits ahead of him. While Ferrari made a strategic error with an additional pitstop for soft tires putting Leclerc behind Bottas on the restart.

So, the start, Charles Leclerc got a decent start, as did Sebastian Vettel, who got alongside and passed Hamilton for 2nd through the turn 1 kink, then got alongside teammate Leclerc to pass for the lead into turn 2, such is the power of the tow in the run down to turn 2. Carlos Sainz got a great start as well, getting alongside Hamilton in the run down to turn 2, eventually slotting into 4th splitting the Mercedes.

We didn’t even get a full lap in before the safety car was deployed. It was a case of 3 into 1 didn’t go at turn 4, Antonio Giovinazzi was the meat in a HAAS/Renault sandwich, which resulted in Grosjean being immediately out of the race with broken suspension, Ricciardo trundling back to the pits after suffering a puncture, later retiring on lap 26 due to damage sustained in the incident, while the meat, Giovinazzi got off relatively lightly, a damaged front wing, and going on to finish the race, albeit outside of the points.

Then came the political drama at Ferrari, where the team had planned to swap their drivers around a few laps into the race. The pre-race plan was for Leclerc to give Vettel the tow through turn 1 towards turn 2 to get him clear of Hamilton in second, I don’t think the plan was for Vettel to take the lead, I guess Ferrari underestimated the power of the tow in the run down to turn 2. Vettel had pulled significantly ahead of Leclerc, so when the call came to let Leclerc by, Vettel responded with “I can’t, he’s too far behind”.

In fairness to Vettel, he was the faster driver, setting a sequence of four fastest laps, extending his lead over his teammate. As Vettel was clearly unwilling to yield the position to his younger teammate, Ferrari hung Vettel out to dry, keeping the German out for an additional five laps more than Leclerc, giving the Monegasque driver the undercut on Vettel. It got worse for Vettel with an MGU-K failure, forcing the German to stop at turn 16, which caused a virtual safety car, which Mercedes used to good advantage, to get Hamilton into the race lead, due to the speed differential of cars on the track and the pit lane.

As the VSC was ending; George Russell had a brake failure, going straight at turn 8, which forced a full safety car to recover his stricken Williams. During this safety car period, Ferrari pitted Leclerc for a second stop for a set of used soft tires, which dropped him back to 3rd place, now behind Bottas. And that was the end of the race for the podium. Leclerc got close to Bottas a few times, but even with DRS activated, could not pass the Finnish driver. I think you’d have to call this a bad strategic call from Ferrari.

Red Bull, who started 9th with Max Verstappen, and from the pit lane with Alex Albon, after a heavy crash in qualifying, made their way through the field with Verstappen finishing 4th, thanks to Vettel’s retirement, and Albon finishing in a solid 5th place, equalling his best result. A great result for the Thai driver after starting from the pit lane, albeit being aided by a number of retirements throughout the field.

Another solid result for McLaren, finishing 6th and 8th after the +5 second time penalty was applied to Kevin Magnussen. McLaren was the highest placed Renault powered car on a weekend where it was announced that McLaren will be returning to Mercedes power in 2021. Which of course means nothing, Honda got a lot of the blame for McLaren’s lackluster performance, when it was as much McLaren’s chassis design that made them slow. Williams has the Mercedes PU, yet, they are nowhere this season.

The net result is that Hamilton has a 107 point lead over third-placed Leclerc in the world drivers title race, yes, the gap to Bottas is smaller, 73 points, but we know, after Singapore, that Bottas is Hamilton’s bitch, so we can discount the gap to Bottas. With just five races remaining, and Hamilton having a full four-race points gap, the Briton would have to retire several times to lose the world drivers title.

Russian Grand Prix 2019 Results

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:33:38.992
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +3.829s
3. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +5.212s
4. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +14.210s
5. Alexander Albon (Red Bull) +38.348s
6. Carlos Sainz (McLaren) +45.889s
7. Sergio Perez (Racing Point) +48.728s
8. Lando Norris (McLaren) +57.749s
9. Kevin Magnussen (HAAS) +58.779s
10. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) +59.841s

Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix 2019

Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix 2019

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc is on somewhat of a roll over the past two weeks, claiming his second career F1 victory at Ferrari’s ‘home’ circuit, putting his four-time world champion teammate in the shade.

Before I write about the race, I have to say that qualifying 3 was a shambles with nine drivers jockeying for position to get a tow down the long straights to maximize performance. But, ultimately, only one driver managed to get to the line before the chequered flag, meaning eight of the nine drivers on track failed to start a final flying lap, meaning Leclerc, who set the fastest time before the red flag, qualified on pole.

Leclerc made a good start to lead into the turn 1 chicane, followed by the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas and Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel. Although Vettel did lose out to Nico Hulkenberg around Curva Grande into the second chicane before Vettel returned the favor on lap 2 using his Ferrari’s superior power unit on the main straight to move back into fourth place.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen suffered some more start line pain for the second week in a row, starting from 19th place after failing to set a time in qualifying for mechanical reasons. The Dutchman made a good start, but clipped the back of Sergio Perez’ Racing Point in the braking zone for turn 1, which broke his front wing, forcing a pit stop on lap 2 to replace the damaged wing, relegating him to 20th and stone last.

Not much was happening at the front in the first third of the race, other than Sebastian Vettel spinning all by himself at Variante Ascari, before rejoining the  track in an unsafe manner, causing Lance Stroll to run over Vettel’s front wing, tipping the Canadian into a spin, who in turn rejoined the track in an unsafe manner, causing Pierre Gasly to take avoiding action, driving into the gravel trap. Both Vettel and Stroll were handed penalties, a 10 second stop/go penalty for Vettel and a drive-through penalty for Stroll.

Hamilton pitted for fresh tires on lap 20, trying the undercut on Leclerc, switching to a set of medium tires. Leclerc pitted on lap 21, but, unlike Hamilton, switched to the hard tire, maintaining the effective lead. Bottas did not pit for tires until lap 28, and like Hamilton switched to the medium tire. After the pitstop shakedown, the top three positions remained the same, Leclerc, Hamilton and Bottas.

Hamilton was all over the gearbox of Leclerc on lap 23 and put himself in a position to overtake coming out of Curva Grande into the second chicane. But, Leclerc defended robustly, squeezing Hamilton onto the grass and onto the runoff area at the chicane. For which, Leclerc was shown the black and white flag for unsportsmanlike conduct, which is kinda like a yellow card in football, a great call by stewards IMO.

There was a period of two virtual safety cars on laps 29 and 30, temporarily calling off the battle for the lead to recover Sainz’ McLaren after the team sent him out with a loose wheel. Then a second VSC to recover the Toro Rosso of Danill Kvyat who stopped after the turn 1 chicane with a power unit issue.

After the VSC ended, Hamilton started piling the pressure on Leclerc again for the lead, forcing the young Monégasque into a mistake at turn 1, going across the chicane, retaining the lead, staying ahead of Hamilton by making his Ferrari very wide through Curva Grande going into the second chicane.

The decision by Mercedes to put Hamilton onto the medium tire came back to bite Hamilton on the posterior as his tires started to fall off the cliff, with the Briton locking up into turn 1, going across the chicane, around the polystyrene boards, handing second place to Bottas, who tried his best to hunt down the Ferrari of Leclerc, but ran out of tires before he could get into a position to pass the Ferrari driver.

Hamilton elected to make one final stop for soft tires on lap 50, to challenge for the fastest lap point, which he earned with a time of 1:21.779, the very next lap, to lose only 2 points to Bottas in the WDC.

It was the best result of the season for Renault, finishing the race and 4th and 5th places, Daniel Ricciardo winning the inter-team battle. Max Verstappen, although not seen on screen, recovered well from his first lap incident to finish in 8th place, just 15 seconds off his new teammate, Alex Albon in 6th place.

I am really liking the ‘let them race’ mentality from the FIA in recent races. During the first part of the season, Charles Leclerc would have almost certainly been handed a penalty for his defensive move squeezing Hamilton onto the grass. Since the change of stewardship policy, nearly every race has been amazing, reigniting the passion of fans and drivers for Formula 1, I say, long may it continue.

Italian Grand Prix 2019 Results

1. Charles Leclec (Ferrari) 1:15:26.665
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +0.835
3. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +35.199
4. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) +45.515
5. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) +58.165
6. Alex Albon (Red Bull) +59.315
7. Sergio Perez (Racing Point) +73.802
8. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +74.492
9. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo) +1 LAP
10. Lando Norris (McLaren) +1 LAP

Movie Theater Fail!

Regal Warren Theater, East Wichita

We normally don’t go to the movie theater often due to the extortionate cost of movie tickets. But, this weekend as I got a bonus from work, I decided to treat my family with a trip to the East 13th St Regal Theater, formerly Warren Theater and it was a very overpriced and disappointing experience.

I guess the first thing, the cost of tickets, applies to most theaters these days, but $43.68 for 3 adults and 1 child is too much in my opinion. Yes, you could skip the $5.80 convenience fee by buying the ticket in the theater itself. I believe that venues that charge a convenience fee are shooting themselves in the foot, in this case, Regal adds a 15% surcharge to every ticket sale through their app or online.

Clearly, other people feel the same, while we were sat in the restaurant, for about 45-50 minutes, we observed more staff than customers, and even when we went into the theater itself for the showing of the movie, I would estimate that less than 15% of the seats were taken, on a Saturday evening.

The real disappointment was the onsite diner restaurant. Since the last time we visited the diner, about six or seven months ago, the menu has changed, with significantly higher prices, 3 burgers, chicken sandwich, side salad, 2 bottles of water, two milkshakes and one fountain drink came to almost $94.

Ignoring the price, the experience was not good. First of all, when we ordered, we said that we were going to eat-in, we took our seats and waited, and waited, and waited. After about 20 minutes, my wife turns around and noticed two bags on the counter as asks me “is that our food?”. I responded, “I don’t know, go ask”. My wife goes up to the counter and asks, and yes it was our food, now barely warm.

The food was transferred to ‘plates’ and brought to our table, I start to eat my onion rings, and I pull a blond hair out of my mouth. Not best pleased, I go up to the counter with my plate and the hair and ask to speak to a manager. There was no issue with the manager, he offered to get me another burger, which I declined, finding a strangers hair in your food kinda kills your appetite. They refunded my meal without an issue but coupled with a 30% price increase over a similar meal previously, it really irritated me.

Honestly, I have avoided the movie theater over the past couple of years, because the cost, it should not cost $70 to $80 to take a family of four to see a movie. $43+ for the tickets, $38 if you buy in the theater, then another $35+ for popcorn and drinks. It’s no wonder that there are 70%+ of seats still available for each showing. There is no need for tickets to cost $9.50 to $15.50 to see a movie, I’ll wait for it to become available on in-home streaming, pay $4 to $7 and invite a few friends around to watch with my family.

Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix 2019

Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix 2019

The second half of the F1 season kicked off on a very sad note with the passing of F2 driver, Anthoine Hubert, who was killed in a race earlier in the weekend. The F2 race was immediately red-flagged and canceled, the second F2 race on Sunday was also canceled as a mark of respect for the tragic loss of the 22-year-old Frenchman. My condolences go out to Anthoine’s family, friends, and team members. We are so used to drivers walking away from major crashes, which makes Anthoine’s death all the more shocking.

The race produced a new F1 winner, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc took his maiden F1 victory after coming so close, twice this season, having to fend off a late challenge from the current world champion, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton. I believe that Leclerc is the first Monégasque (Monaco) driver to ever win an F1 race.

At the start, Leclerc, who started from pole, exited the first corner in the lead, while Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel found himself on the outside of the Mercedes of Hamilton, going wide at La Source, returning to the track between Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas in 3rd place. But, used Ferrari’s superior power to move back to 2nd place in the run down the Kemmel Straight towards the Les Combes chicane.

Meanwhile, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen made an ill-advised decision to dive down the inside of Kimi Raikkonen at La Source, making contact with the Finnish driver as the Dutchman attempted to make up for his bad start. This contact damaged the steering of Verstappen, which broke as he traversed the top of Radion, Raikkonen’s race was also effectively over with significant damage to his Alfa Romeo’s floor.

Nineteen-year-old Briton, Lando Norris made a brilliant start, making up six places, moving from 11th to fifth place, somehow avoiding the carnage at La Source. Norris stayed in fifth place as best of the rest behind Ferrari and Mercedes, but had his best-ever finish stolen away from him, one lap from the end, his McLaren coming to a halt with a Renault power unit issue as he started his final lap. Big disappointment for the young Briton, at least he has the consolation of being voted driver of the race.

The race was immediately put on hold, the safety car was deployed to recover Verstappen’s car, which was further extended to cover the recovery of Carlos Sainz’ McLaren which stopped on the outside of the bus stop chicane with a suspected power unit issue. The race restarted on lap five, with Leclerc creating a gap for himself before La Source, Vettel locked up, allowing Hamilton a sniff through Eau Rouge and Radion, but the Ferrari stretched its legs to be clear into the Les Combes braking zone.

Ferrari elected to pit Vettel, the first of the leading pack, on lap 16, for medium tires, while teammate and race leader Leclerc continued on for a further six laps, losing out to Vettel, who successful used the undercut. I questioned why Ferrari left Leclerc out for so long, after pitting Vettel, losing large chunks of time every lap to the German driver. But it all became clear later on, when Ferrari instructed Vettel to move aside for his young teammate, which happened on the start/finish straight on lap 27.

Vettel eventually ran out of tire performance as we entered the final third of the race, being passed by Hamilton on lap 32, before pitting for a second set of used soft tires, as he was about to be passed by the second Mercedes of Bottas. There was no point in Vettel staying out on worn tires as he was going to finish fourth anyway. Overall, it was a disappointing race for Vettel, starting second in the fastest car at Spa Francorchamps, only to finish behind both Mercedes, while his teammate took the victory.

Alex Albon, who was promoted to a Red Bull drive, at the expense of Pierre Gasly, during the mid season break, benefited from Norris’ misfortune to finish fifth, overtaking Racing Point’s Sergio Perez on the final lap. For which he was lucky to not get a penalty as he went off track to make the overtake happen. Daniel Ricciardo was given a 5 second time penalty for a similar move back at the French Grand Prix.

Speaking of Daniel Ricciardo, after getting a big clout from Lance Stroll during the first corner melee, the Australian pitted for medium tires on lap 2, suffering the ignominy of dropping continuously backward in the final third of the race, all the way down to 14th after running solidly in the top 10 earlier on. You really have to question the logic of keeping Ricciardo out for such a long stint, a set of soft tires late on would have been the better option, especially given Ricciardo’s reputation of being the last of the late brakers.

Belgian Grand Prix 2019 Results

1. Charles Leclec (Ferrari) 1:23:45.710
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0.981
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +12.585
4. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +26.422
5. Alex Albon (Red Bull) +1:21.325
6. Sergio Perez (Racing Point) +1:24.448
7. Danill Kvyat (Toro Rosso) +1:29.657
8. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) +1:46.639
9.  Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso) +1:49.168
10. Lance Stroll (Racing Point) +1:49.838

Our Trip To Colorado

Our Trip To Colorado

Last weekend, the wife and I went to Colorado, more specifically the Denver area, and the following is the adventures we had in the area, and those adventures started before we even arrived in Colorado.

On the drive from Wichita, Kansas where we live, to Colorado, we literally ran into a wall of rain, it was bright and sunny, then suddenly, it was dark and I could barely see 8 to 10 feet in front of my car, the car in front disappeared into the rain and I could no longer see it. I have never seen a wall of rain like this before. I have seen rain like this falling in the distance, but I have never driven into it… it’s scary shit!

We arrived at our hotel, the Renaissance Stapleton, in Denver at around 5pm, which confused us as we left Wichita about 10:30am and it was supposed to be an eight-hour drive, and we stopped for food for about 20 minutes. I was driving at the speed limit, plus 5mph, so 80mph with cruise control turned on. After wracking my brain, I finally realized that Denver is not central time, it was actually mountain time, so we had effectively lost an hour, which made sense as my phone and car time is set by GPS positioning.

The hotel was fine, nothing special, but decent for $119 + tax per night with our AAA discount. It was a good-sized room with a king-size bed, a separate sitting area, balcony and a 48″ smart TV and the bathroom was adequate with large stand up shower, and a cool backlit mirror with mountain etching.

After settling into our room, Erin and I decided to head downtown to find somewhere to eat, which didn’t happen as parking is a joke and what parking there was cost between $10 and $25 to park. So we gave up and headed back towards our hotel and found a little retail area which had a few restaurants. We ended up in a QDOBA Mexican Eats, which was fine, at this point, we just wanted to eat and go to bed.

The next day, Saturday, we headed towards Estes Park, with a view to driving up into the mountains at the Rocky Mountain National Park, but we took a wrong turn and ended up in Fort Collins, which was not our intention, but the drive was stunningly beautiful through the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

We headed back to Estes Park for something to eat and we found a cute place on the river called Poppy’s Pizza & Grill, where we enjoyed a delicious burger. After this, we finally stumbled on the national park, but it was almost dark, so driving up the mountain was a no-go. However, the nice lady at the park entrance let us in for free, and gave us directions to the best spot to see the sunset over the mountains.

By the time we got back to the hotel, it was pitch dark and we were ready to hit the sack.

Sunday, we drove back up to Estes Park and took the correct turn to visit Rocky Mountain National Park and because the park was celebrating its 103rd birthday, entry was free, saving us $25, which I would have gladly paid, the views from the Trail Ridge Road which took us over 12,000ft above sea level was awe-inspiring, with several stops and parking areas to take in the beautiful views and snap some photos.

After spending 2 1/2 hours in the park, we headed back to Denver, for the reason we were in Colorado in the first place, to see Korn and Alice In Chains play live at the Pepsi Center. And Korn was freaking amazing, the bass wasn’t so much hitting you in the chest, it was more like the bass physically moving you. Alice in Chains also put on a great performance, although I have, personally not been a fan of the band.

Parking for the Pepsi Center was $25 (a Denver theme it seems), even for disabled patrons, which I paid begrudgingly. Inside the Pepsi Center on the floor, they had a tunnel for the cables from the sound and lighting desks, which was so steep that it really was inaccessible to wheelchair users, Erin had to get out of her wheelchair, for me to lift it over the tunnel. I have to ding the Pepsi Center for not considering wheelchair users. Someone unable to walk at all would be relegated to the back of the arena floor.

As a city, we really did not like Denver, however, we do like the Denver suburb of Boulder, which sits in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. While we were in Colorado, we wanted to check out the area as we would like to move away from Wichita as we are seeking more nature, less flat Kansas city life, it’s currently between Boulder and Northwest Arkansas, after our son finishes high school in a few years.

Finally, on Monday, it was time to drive back home to Wichita, which was an uneventful drive, both Erin and I felt kinda flat, like Kansas, as we knew we were leaving the mountains that we loved so much. We are already planning on another visit to Colorado, next time, staying in Colorado Springs to explore the Pikes Peak mountain, which motorsports fans will know for the hill climb in outrageously powerful cars.

A final note on the Renaissance Stapleton hotel, on the final morning, twice, someone tried to enter our room, once at 8:20am, which woke me up, then again at 8:50am, while I was in the shower. Luckily, Erin put the security latch across in the middle of the night, which kept whoever it was out. It was too early for housekeeping, and housekeeping always knocks and waits 30 seconds before entering. We reported this to the woman at reception, and all we got was an “I’m sorry about that”, with no escalation, it seemingly doesn’t bother staff that someone had an active card to access our room while we were sleeping.

Back To School … And It’s Fucking Expensive!

USD259 School Fees 2019

My kids, a 10th grader and a 4th grader, are back to school next Wednesday, August 14, 2019. And it not cheap, factoring in the school enrollment fees, uniform and school supplies costs, we are looking at $400+ for my two children. This is before including athletics and musical instrument fees, which thankfully neither of my kids participate in, as that would have been an extra $100 for my high schooler.

We missed enrollment and will have to do late enrollment, as we did not have the money on hand to pay the $210 to enroll my kids. My mother-in-law gave us $300 to help with the fees, and that is not enough, we still had to use credit cards to make up the shortfall. My application for reduced rate meals and fees was rejected because I got a 3% pay rise last September, which puts us just over the max income allowed.

Furthermore, because of being rejected for reduced rate meals, it will cost us $4.80 each day, so that’s $24 a week, almost $100 each month, which of course, will have to be put on credit cards, pushing us further into debt. Just paying the minimum payment and hoping we get enough in our tax refund to start the new tax year on an even keel. America, land of opportunity my arse, unless you are starting with a financial advantage, the USA is designed to keep you down, not enable you to live “The American Dream”.

Oh, and to add insult to injury, USD259 makes you agree to them setting the debt collection dogs on you if you cannot afford to pay the $60 for elementary schoolers and $150 for high schoolers fees during the enrollment process. Way to go, Wichita School District, kick people when their down.

Additional observations: until the 2017/18 school year, school uniforms were not required, now, we have to spend over $100 on uniforms for my daughter each year, sometimes more than once in that school year if she outgrows it. Then, during the school year, there are dress down days, which costs anywhere between $1 and $2 per dress down day. In my opinion, this is another way to shift the cost of schooling from the school district to the parents, why do I pay my taxes again? heaven forbid it funds schools!

It really pisses me off that the federal government can hand out welfare for the rich, in the form of tax cuts that allow companies like Amazon to pay zero federal taxes, yet, they cannot find money to properly fund schools, doing away with the need for school fundraisers to make up for the funding shortfall.

School supplies, that’s another way the school district has passed costs onto parents. You spend $50 – $60 per child on school supplies and it gets added to communal pool, meaning that you are not buying supplies for your child, you are buying it for the school. They literally tell you in the enrollment packet not to write your childs name on any of the supplies other than their backpack. This is new as well, until about 3 to 4 years ago, your child brought home their supplies at the end of the school year.

Often, during the school year, the school will send home a letter asking for parents to donate more school supplies. We really need to look at the way our schools are funded, teachers and parents should not have to pay to make up the shortfall, former Gov. Sam Brownback has a lot to answer for, block grants will never work. I pay my state taxes every paycheck, why is this not used to fund schools properly? They can afford to give tax handouts to companies like Koch, but not fund schools properly, disgraceful!

/end rant

Formula 1 Hungarian Grand Prix 2019

F1 Hungarian Grand Prix 2019

The Hungarian Grand Prix brings the first half of the 2019 Formula 1 season to a close, and it was a forth good race on the trot. It was also the first race, in which, Max Verstappen started from pole position, proving that maybe, McLaren had jumped ship too soon, Honda really is coming to the fore working with Red Bull, not quite up there with Mercedes, but have leapfrogged Ferrari in recent races.

Verstappen, got off the start line well, unlike the previous race in Germany where he dropped back to 4th, to lead comfortably through the first few turns while the Mercedes duo of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton squabbled over second place, with Hamilton winning the battle. Bottas fell back further being passed by the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc in the run between turns 3 and 4, with the Frenchman giving the Finn a clout on the way through, damaging Bottas’ front wing, forcing a lengthy stop on lap 6.

This unscheduled stop for Bottas put the Finn on the back foot, dropping back to last place after a 15 second stop. Bottas did battle back to 8th place, but another disappointing race for the Finnish driver. It’s an open secret that Bottas might find himself without a Mercedes seat if his form does not pick up. He started the season very well, but has dropped back from his teammate in the same machinery since the first four races. Bottas is now 62 points behind Hamilton and just seven points ahead of Verstappen.

By lap 3, Verstappen had a 2.1 second lead over Hamilton. The gap yo-yoed between 1.3 and 2 seconds until the Dutchman stopped for fresh tires on lap 26, switching to the hard tire, handing the lead to Hamilton, with Mercedes invoking HAMMER TIME in an effort to make the overcut work, but Hamilton was not fast enough on used tires to get the 20 second gap needed to stop and get back out in front of Verstappen. Hamilton eventually pitted on lap 32 for hard tires, yielding the lead back to Verstappen.

After Hamilton’s switch to a set of hard tires, the Briton was flying, to soon be in DRS range, and by lap 39, he was in a position to attack Verstappen for the lead of the race. Hamilton attempted to overtake around the outside of turn 1 as the dueling leaders lapped Ricciardo, battling through turns 2 and 3, culminating in Hamilton carrying too much speed into turn 4 going wide, dropping 2 seconds behind over the next few laps, seemingly having used the best of his tires, giving Verstappen some breathing room.

On lap 49, Mercedes made an inspired strategy call to pit Hamilton a second time for a set of medium tires, while Verstappen stayed on track with 23 lap old tires. The Briton was suddenly pumping in fast lap after fast lap, closing in on Verstappen by 1/2 second to 1 1/2 seconds per lap, to be in the position of overtaking the Dutchman on lap 67, which was an easy pass for Hamilton as Verstappen’s hard tires were ‘dead’. Red Bull, then immediately pitted Verstappen for new soft tires, chasing a point for fastest lap.

The question is; did Red Bull cost Max Verstappen the win by keeping him out? Yes, I understand that if Verstappen stopped a second time, he would have dropped behind Hamilton anyway, but on fresh tires, the Dutchman would have had a chance to chase down and maybe pass the Englishman. We know what Max can do on a set of soft tires in the closing laps of a race, I feel it would have been the better option, rather than asking the hard tire to do more than 40 laps and still have enough life to stay ahead.

Ferrari finished the race in a distant third and fourth places, with team leader Sebastian Vettel overtaking his young team mate Leclerc for the final podium spot on lap 68. Another disappointing race for Ferrari, falling behind Red Bull. At the half way point of the season, Ferrari are all but out off the championship hunt, Max Verstappen and Red Bull are looking like Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton’s challengers for the World Drivers Championship title. Ferrari, where world champions go to die, it seems, ask Alonso.

Hungarian Grand Prix 2019 Results

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:35:03.796
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +17.796s
3. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +61.433s
4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +65.250s
5. Carlos Sainz  (McLaren) +1 LAP
6. Pierre Gasly (Red Bull) +1 LAP
7. Kimi Räikkönen (Alfa Romeo) +1 LAP
8. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +1 LAP
9.  Lando Norris (McLaren) +1 LAP
10. Alexander Albon (Toro Rosso) +1 LAP

Formula 1 German Grand Prix 2019

F1 German Grand Prix 2019

I know that I am a week late to the party, it’s been a busy week and this is the first moment I have had to write about the F1 German GP. But, what a cracker of a race, it had thrills and spills galore including big-name drivers spinning and crashing out in the slippery conditions with intermittent periods of rain keeping the drivers on intermediate tires with a few drivers taking a gamble of slicks and paying the price.

The Grand Prix, I guess officially started behind the safety car, as there were 4 formation laps, before forming up on the grid for a regular start, minus 3 laps, reducing the race distance to 64 laps instead of the usual 67 laps, due to the added three formation laps, I guess this is new for the 2019 season.

During the grid start, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who started on the front row alongside Lewis Hamilton made a terrible start, dropping back to fourth, having to fend off Romain Grosjean. Meanwhile, Valtteri Bottas slotted in behind his Mercedes teammate, Hamilton, who started from pole. Kimi Raikkonen moved into third place due to Verstappen’s poor start. Verstappen quickly reclaimed third place, while the Ferrari’s were on the move, Sebastian Vettel, who started from the back of the grid, made up six places, up to 14th, and Charles Leclerc made up four places, up to sixth from 10th place on the first lap.

The drama started on lap 2 with Racing Point’s Sergio Perez spinning all by himself and out of the race, causing the first of many safety car periods. Vettel was the first to blink, coming in for intermediate tires, which triggered a whole series of pit stops to get rid of the full wet tires in the three laps the safety car was circulating. On the restart, the drivers that stayed out on full wet tires, finding themselves high up in the top 10, was immediately swallowed up by the cars on faster, for the conditions, intermediate tires.

By lap 10, the top three remained the same, Hamilton, Bottas and Verstappen, while Ferrari was still moving forwards, Leclerc had moved up to fourth place, and Vettel had moved up to seventh place, thanks to his early stop for intermediates. While the last of the full wet holdouts pitted for intermediates.

Now, some controversy, involving Ferrari, the FIA handed Ferrari a financial penalty for an unsafe release, sending Leclerc out into the path of Romain Grosjean, causing the Frenchman to take avoiding action. Which, let’s be honest, for a team like Ferrari, monetary penalties are meaningless, effectively Ferrari went unpunished for creating a dangerous situation. And, sets a bad precedent, if teams in future get an in-race penalty for a similar infraction, they have a great case to cite this ‘non-race’ penalty. It’s supposed to be a team sport, win as a team, lose as a team, the FIA should not separate team and driver.

Ferrari, got another lucky break, taking advantage of a brief virtual safety car to cover Daniel Ricciardo’s massive engine failure, to pit Leclerc for a very cheap stop. This was before the leading drivers started to come in for dry tires, only to return to intermediates after Leclerc ended up in the wall and out of the race at the final turn, Hamilton also slid into the wall, but managed to keep the wheels rolling to sweep into the pit lane, but his team was not ready for him, resulting in a 50 second stop, and to add insult to injury, Hamilton received a 5 second time penalty for entering the pit lane to the left of the safety bollard.

After serving his 5 second time penalty in the pits, Hamilton rejoined the track in 12th place, but dropped to the rear of the field after harmlessly spinning at turn 1 on lap 53, due to another safety car bunching the pack up, and changing to slicks. It was definitely a nightmare race for the championship leader.

The HONDA powered Verstappen had used his race smarts to be on the right tire at the right time, to be leading the race, overtaking Bottas in the pits for the lead. And Vettel, who I remind you, started from 20th place, battled his way up to 2nd place by the time the chequered flag was waved. The German found some serious pace in his final stint on slick tires, making pass after pass in the closing laps.

Lewis Hamilton and Williams’ Robert Kubica were promoted into the top 10 thanks to the race stewards handing 30 second time penalties to Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi for getting help from their Alfa Romeo team in regard to clutch settings on the grid, which breaches Article 27.1 of the sporting regulations which states: “The driver must drive the car alone and unaided.”  The HAAS drivers, Grosjean and Magnussen have also been bumped up two places to 7th and 8th places respectively as a result.

Article 27.1 baffles me, during the race, we frequently hear over the radio, engineers telling the driver to switch to a specific mode on the steering wheel, such as “yellow, G3”, how is this not a breach of the same rule? Comment below if you know why these instructions do not infringe the sporting regulations.

It was definitely a topsy-turvy race, how often do you see Kvyat, Stroll, Sainz, and Albon in the top six? We all laughed at Bernie Ecclestone for his idea of on track sprinklers to spice up races. Nature did the job during this race with a regular sprinkling of water to keep the drivers on their toes, and fans interested.

German Grand Prix 2019 Results

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 1:44:31.275
2. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +7.333s
3. Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) +8.305s
4. Lance Stroll (Racing Point) +8.966s
5. Carlos Sainz (McLaren) +9.583s
6. Alexander Albon (Toro Rosso) +10.052s
7. Romain Grosjean (HAAS) +16.838s
8. Kevin Magnussen (HAAS) +18.765s
9.  Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +19.667s
10. Robert Kubica (Williams) +24.987s

Review: Asus ROG Zephyrus G GA502 Gaming Laptop

Asus ROG Zephyrus G GA502 Gaming Laptop

The Asus Republic of Gamers Zephyrus G GA502 is an affordable Ryzen 7 3750H 4 core, 8 thread based gaming laptop with both AMD Vega 10 graphics and Nvidia Geforce 1660ti graphics onboard, with the latter featuring 6GB of dedicated memory. The model I purchased was $1,200 and features 16GB of RAM and a 120hz display panel, the base model, retailing for $1,100 features a 60hz panel and 8GB of RAM.

Initial impressions are good; if you’ve ever bought a Republic of Gamers product, you’ll know the unboxing experience is something special. Opening the lid of the box presents the GA502 to you, pushing the product up towards you. Picking up the laptop for the first time, it felt solid with a brushed aluminum lid featuring a large ROG logo, while opening the lid felt like very sturdy, with little flex in the panel.

The big downside is that the GA502 is a fingerprint magnet. Before I even powered on the laptop, it had dozens of fingerprints all over it. For those triggered by this, I’d advise a pair of white gloves, because finger prints are unavoidable, no matter how careful you are in handling this laptop.

Taking a tour around the GA502, starting on the top, there is a full-size, white backlit keyboard, which is fine by me, I set my desktop RGB keyboard to white and leave it. The keyboard includes the usual FN keys for quickly changing settings, dedicated volume up, volume down and mic on/off buttons as well as a dedicated button to launch the ROG Armoury Crate software, which allows for the control of many laptop functions. In addition to the keyboard, there is a multi-touch gesture-controlled touchpad, which is responsive enough for most people, although I prefer to use a mouse, whenever possible.

On the right side, there are two USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports, exhaust vent, and a Kensington lock slot. While the left-hand side features a power input, Ethernet port, HDMI port, one USB 3.1 Gen 1 port, one USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type C port and finally a combination headset, microphone jack. An impressive array of I/O given the thinness of the GA502, the only omission is a card reader, which is not a deal-breaker for me.

Another omission is a webcam, Asus elected to go for a smaller overall size, a 15.6in laptop in a 14in footprint, meaning the bezels are too slim to include a webcam. I have mixed feelings about this, if I had noticed this instore, I might not have bought this laptop, but it’s not a big enough issue for me to return it. But it is a consideration, as you will need to carry a separate webcam for video conferencing on the go.

It would have been nice if Asus provided a basic webcam in the box, given the $1,200 price tag for this laptop, or even included a built-in chin bar webcam, which is not ideal, but it’s better than nothing.

This is not something the average user is likely to do, but I elected to wipe the Windows 10 Home install in favor of Windows 10 Professional as I will be using this ‘gaming’ laptop for productivity work. This caused an issue with the install of Sonic Studio 3, which is now a UWP (Universal Windows Program), I never managed to get Sonic Studio 3 to work, despite meticulously following Asus’ install instructions.

I did find a workaround, I installed EqualizerAPO and Peace GUI for EqualizerAPO. This gave me the control over the sound equalization I desired. Which brings me onto the second negative, the speakers/default sound profile. The speakers are downward-firing, which makes them sound a little muffled and bass-heavy, lacking mid-range clarity, thankfully it was fixable with EqualizerAPO and Peace.

I did note during my testing that there is compression applied to the audio, which is easily demostrated by pushing the pre-amp boost in Peace to beyond 0db. The quiet bits get louder and the loud bits are compressed, normalizing the sound to 0db. I cannot find a way to disable this, so I guess it must be a hardware level feature, I spent an hour pouring over audio and Realtek driver settings, with no success.

The display panel is a matt coated IPS ‘like’ display with good viewing angles, comparable to my IPS Dell U3415W, although it could be a bit brighter in my opinion. Not to say it’s dim, it’s fine for indoor use, but outdoor use in bright sunlight could be an issue. I would not recommend this display for color accurate tasks such as photo or video editing, it’s not terrible, but falls well short when comparing it to my Dell 100% sRGB panel that I use on my desktop computer, which in fairness does cost the same as the GA502. This is not a huge issue as it’s a gaming laptop, and I never intended it to be used for serious photo work.

Storage is fast, the 512GB Intel NVMe PCIe 3.0 x 2 drive boots to Windows 10 Pro desktop in just 11 – 12 seconds, with auto-login, enabled. In use it feels snappy, with little to no delay between clicking the icon and the application loading, there’s nothing to complain about here, gone are the  days of spinning rust.

Moving onto some benchmarks, I guess I have been inspired by the tech Youtubers than I watch, starting with the Cinebench R20 CPU benchmark. The first run was kinda disappointing, only managing 1399, which was slower than an i7 4850HQ, but I discovered the ‘myAsus’ background service was doing something in the background. I disabled that service and rebooted, ran the benchmark again and came out with a respectable score of 1808, putting it between the Intel i7 6700HQ and the desktop i7 7700K.

The Ryzen 7 3750H CPU maintained a respectable 3817Mhz boost clock throughout the benchmark and reached a maximum temperature of 88°C, but that was at the cost of noise, the fans ramped up significantly, to a point where it could be annoying, I guess that’s the price you pay for a slim chassis.

Asus ROG G GA502 Cinebech R20 Scores

Moving onto the Unigine Superposition GPU benchmark on the 1080p high setting. The Geforce GTX 1660ti Max-Q managed a respectable 6795 points with a minimum framerate of 40.89, a max framerate of 62.11 with an average of 50.83 frames per second, reaching a maximum temperature of 76°C.

Asus ROG G GA502 Unigine Superposition Scores

And finally, Wi-Fi performance, using the internal wireless card connected to my AT&T BGW210 wireless AC router, from roughly six feet from the access point, it managed 158Mbps download and 202Mbps upload, which I am ecstatic about, 100Mbps+ on Wi-Fi is great. This is not limited by my internet, I have symmetrical gigabit fiber to my home, my wired desktop can manage over 900Mbps up and down.

Asus ROG G GA502 Wi-Fi Speedtest

Overall, I would recommend the Asus ROG Zephyrus G GA502, it’s a solid all-round performer, good for productivity and gaming, with a couple of shortcomings, such as the lack of webcam and the downward-firing speakers and poor out of the box EQ. For many, you can save $100 and get the base model, it comes with the same CPU, GPU, and NVMe drive, it just lacks the 120Hz screen and extra 8GB of RAM.

FINAL NOTE: The marketing images are misleading, the ROG logo on the back of the lid is not illuminated like the marketing photos show, it’s incredibly dim, infact, until I turned the lights out, I thought that it was not illuminated at all. I wonder how many RMA’d the laptop thinking the backlight was not working?