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An Improved Formula for Formula 1.

Another year, another beer F1 – in Ferrari red, of course.

Around this time of year Formula One fans start emerging from their winter hibernation in preparation for the upcoming season. And that upcoming season is just two weeks away! Indeed, on March 24-26 the engines will be roaring, the tires will be burning, and the sleek polished bodies of the racing cars will be sparkling in the bright sun down in Melbourne. Get ready for much flag-waving, much honking of sirens, colossal crowds, and millions of fans all around the world glued to their TVs…

It’s harder than ever to say who will do well this season and who won’t. For those who might not be budding F1 fanatics, let me tell you that this is because the FIA (governing body for world motor sport, which among other things sets the rules for racing) every year makes adjustments to F1 rules to make the sport more entertaining and competitive, and to be able to show off the very latest super F1 tech. Well this year the FIA has gone one further and changed the regulations to such an extent that making predictions as to results has turned into a thanklessly futile pursuit: there’ve been just soooo many changes; and how they will affect the different teams is anyone’s guess.

For the low down on just how they’ve stirred the soup this year I’ll hand over the reins here to D.M., editor of Kaspersky Motorsport. She’s much more knowledgeable of all things F1, and as a result also much better able to explain all its intricacies…

“In recent years F1 has become rather unpredictable, and therefore less entertaining. In order to bring back some of the intrigue, the FIA has overhauled both the sporting and technical regulations. 

What stands out most of all regarding the changes made are the wider tires – boosting both downforce and grip. Also, a wider front wing span and a return to a wider and higher diffuser, which create better aerodynamics. Ok – now for the details…

So what’s been changed as regards the technical regulations?

1) The front wing has a new shape, giving the car more of a combative look. It’s now further from the chassis: the length of the nose cone has grown from 850 to 1050mm, while the front wing span has grown from 1650 to 1800mm. One of the reasons for this is to improve air flow around the new, wider tires.

2) The diffuser has increased in size: to 175mm in height from 125mm, and to 1050mm in width from 1000mm. It’s also longer, now extending ahead of the rear axle line.

3) The chassis is now 200mm wider – maximum: 1600mm; minimum: 1400 (the height has remained the same – 950mm.

Ferrari SF70H vs Ferrari SF16H

4) The side-pod flow deflectors have increased in size.

Ferrari SF70H vs Ferrari SF16H

5) The maximum weight has been increased from 702 to 722kg (without fuel).

6) The width of the brake disks has been increased from 28 to 32mm. 

7) Thanks to the new construction parameters, the cars should be doing laps around three or four seconds faster this season, so the downforce has been increased by 15-20%: to maintain sufficient grip with the track surface at higher speeds, wider tires were needed, thus introduced.

Pirelli will be fitting front tires that are 25% wider than last season (305mm up from 245), and rear ones that are 30% wider (405mm up from 325mm). All this, as mentioned, improves traction; also acceleration and braking. The diameter of the tires has increased a little (from 660mm to 670), while wheel size stays the same (13 inches).

8) The effect of the drag reduction system (DRS) has increased. That is, it will generate more downforce and have higher drag. As a result cars will be able to open a special wing and gain as much as six or seven miles per hour. 

Other Changes

1) Helmets:

Drivers must continue to use essentially the same helmet design at all races for easy recognition of the driver in the car. However, each driver is now allowed to use a special livery at one event of his choosing, such as a home race for example. Drivers will also be allowed to change their helmet liveries if changing teams during the season.

2) Power Units:

A rule change has been made to prevent drivers stockpiling spare power unit elements. During any single event, if a driver introduces more than one power unit element that is subject to a grid penalty, only the last element fitted may be used at subsequent events without further penalty.

A number of changes have also been introduced aimed at reducing power unit costs, guaranteeing supply for customer teams, and closing the performance gap between engines:

– the power unit price for customer teams has been reduced by €1m per season compared to 2016.

– the previous ‘token’ system for in-season engine development has been removed.

– Additionally, constraints on power unit part weights, dimensions and materials, and on boost pressure, are being introduced in 2017 and in 2018.

3) Tires: 

As before, the teams must inform the FIA of their slick tire choices no less than eight weeks before the start of each European race and fourteen weeks before the start of each event held outside Europe.

For 2017 only, because the tire selection deadline for the first five Grands Prix falls before pre-season testing, for these events Pirelli (the single tire supplier) will allocate two sets of the hardest compound specification, four sets of the medium compound specification and seven sets of the softest compound specification to each driver.

4) Outsourcing restrictions: 

Since Haas F1 debuted in 2016 with much success thanks to close cooperation with Ferrari and Dallara, some restrictions have been introduced this year on outsourcing.

If a team does outsource, including being supplied with components from third-party suppliers, then the time spent using aerodynamic chambers and use of CFD technology connected with such contracts is now strictly regulated, and the team is obliged to give the FIA detailed reports on any such testing.

Besides, rules on team specialists moving to another team have been clarified, among other things to prevent leaks of confidential technical information. Now, all teams must inform the FIA of any significant changes to their personnel, and also present evidence that all reasonable measures to prevent information leakage are taken.

5) Power Unit Supply: 

New rules have been introduced on the supply of power units. This was done to prevent a repeat of the situation in 2015 when the Red Bull and Toro Rosso teams could have ended up without contracts for the supply of power units for the following season. To ensure the supply of power units to customer teams, the homologation procedure now includes an ‘obligation to supply’ that is activated in the event of a team facing an absence of supply.”

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I think that these changes will see a significant shake-up of the F1 status quo and seriously homogenize teams’ performance; this in turn will make the races much more neck-and-neck, interesting and exciting. And of course it provides good opportunities for Ferrari! The red team is strong and its drivers are too. Yep, it has everything set for an excellent season, and finally place the car with our logo on it into the hall of fame of this legendary marque :).

PS: Well done and thank you D.M.!

Days 3-5: Stars + Music = Starmus.

The Starmus-ship Enterprise journeyed further – for a third, fourth and fifth day! Yes, five full days for one single conference – and me present for (almost) every presentation (of the first three days): a first for me.

I’ve grouped the last three days into one post as five posts on one conference would be a little OTT… and anyway, the last three days were slightly less jaw-droppingly intergalactic than the first two. They were still really something however, including several Starmus ‘star’ moments, including this one:

Stephen Hawking.

This clever chap hardly needs an introduction. He started out by telling us a Brief History of Time His Life. Of course, you can read all about that on Wikipedia, but it’s a lot better from the horse’s mouth. Actually, not from the horses’ mouth, and not from his own, but from software that scans his eyes and selects the required words to make sentences. This, plus the synthesized words over the sound system really made an impression. What a guy! An amazing character. Huge respect.

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Read on: Check out these views!…

A.B. on Lijiang: where modernity meets antiquity.

To bolster my own travel notes on Lijiang, in this post, the photographic masterpieces and perceptive narrations of my traveling companion A.B., who kindly agreed to their publication.

Here’s the man himself ringing Lijiang’s Bell of Peace. For just five yuan paid to the monk sitting near it you can ding it with that there suspended beam. Different numbers of rings have different meanings. I don’t remember any, but they’re all positive and along the lines of ‘for peace throughout the whole world’. Ding to that.

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I hand the writing and snapping reins over to A.B.:

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Idiots in Greater China

I’d never been to China. Can’t say it was one of my dream destinations either. Then, unexpectedly I found myself accompanying EK there. It was very much diving in at the deep end, since we missed the obvious locations and went straight into deepest provincial China. I felt like that Idiot Abroad, as I knew absolutely nothing about the country or its culture – not to mention its language. So, first thing was first: I needed to learn a few essential Chinese terms… 

My first three words/phrases were: hello (nihau), thanks (sisi), and ‘down it in one!’ For the latter, it transpired later that I’d been saying it in Japanese – kampai – instead of the Chinese kampey! Main thing: it was understood :).

The great thing about my trip to China was that I saw the true China, not the fake China aimed at foreigners (not that there’s much of that, anyway). I found myself in the relative backwater known as Yunnan Province, specifically its ancient, exotic – even by Chinese standards – city Lijiang, up in the mountains not far from the border with Myanmar and Laos.

What’s curious is that China now, to me… is Lijiang – though I’m sure it’s not fully representative of the whole of this huge country. As E.K. always says: all the more reason to return!

The historic center of old Lijiang resembles in many ways old European towns I’ve visited: all narrow side streets, cobbled sidewalks, tiled roofs, and every structure seemingly built several centuries ago. Every building here by day is either a stall selling trinkets, a café or a restaurant.

I’m reminded a lot of Jerusalem, or a resort town on a Greek island or in Italy – only with the different architecture, faces, and especially smells, which were decidedly… unusual :).

This city is more than 2000 meters above sea level and, according to Wikipedia, the ancient capital of the Nakhi people (pronounced nashi), who are now officially recognized as one of the 56 ethnic groups in the country.

The old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but I’m not sure all the buildings are as ancient as they’re portrayed to be. On one occasion I saw workers dismantling a building with picks and sledgehammers: the roof sure looked ancient, but the walls of the house supporting it looked to be made of 20th century concrete blocks!

Strolling around the narrow streets I kept thinking how the old town seems lost in time. You think Havana’s quaint, looking like it’s the 1950s? This place looks like it’s 500 years ago! But there’s a modern flavor here too: in the below pics for example, there’s an old man in a suit  in slippers/slip-ons with the US stars-and-stripes on them and peeling potatoes; there’s a man washing clothes by hand in a tub with water from an outside tap; there’s a girl selling drums; there’s a craftsman making his wares while watching a film on his carefully-balanced smartphone; and there’s a woman with various decorative clips in her hair for sale, who’s also got a fancy Bluetooth handsfree device in her ear…

#fashion #fashion #fashion #fashion #fashion #China #ekinchina

A photo posted by Eugene Kaspersky (@e_kaspersky) on

Curiously, though geared up specially for tourists, there weren’t any to be seen – apart from us. But come here they do: Lijiang is a leading destination inside the country for the Chinese themselves. They come in their thousands to experience authentic Lijiang cuisine, try on traditional Nakhi costume, buy a drum or tambourine from the Dongba shamen, and climb up the four-floor pagoda (built in… 1997!). 

There’s a tale, whether true or not I don’t know, where Deng Xiaoping, when asked what he thinks of the legacy of the French Revolution, answered that ‘it’s too early to judge; time will tell’.

That tale is told to express how China – both the country and civilization – is so ancient and mighty, that it lives in a timescale completely misunderstood by outsiders, and is able to judge events with the rich experience of millennia.

Still, in Lijiang I got the impression that China lives and breathes modernity. Girls in short skirts, photos taken on iPads, ubiquitous selfie-sticks, sidewalk cafes… even Colonel Sanders fully present. Globalization forges on here in China too – just a little different: without Facebook or Google, and now without Instagram too – banned after the Hong Kong protests. Globalization bringing an understanding of English to China though – I didn’t see much of that: even with my not-bad English I don’t think I’ve ever felt so unable to communicate simple things anywhere! 

Overall, though very (Chinese) touristy, a very interesting place – in a very interesting country. I’m not sure I’d return Lijiang, but I’m sure happy I’ve now been. It has helped form in my mind a vision of China that’s much more… humane than the typical one a lot of foreigners may have who’ve never been (including me until a week ago!).
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All the photos from Lijiang are here.

And that’s all from China folks! Back soon, from…

JFK Reloaded.

Most US airports are catastrophically crummy when it comes to connections. So, when planning multi-leg air journeys, if you ever get the opportunity to not have a connection in the country – take it; even if that means using the in-flight services of your most hateful airline!

But out of all American airports, one in particular is so awful… well, you just feel embarrassed for the country for accommodating such an abomination. Yes folks, this airport is so appallingly atrocious that it needs to be avoided at all costs. As a frequent business traveler I established a strict embargo on using it several years ago already, and if you too travel the world up in the air quite a lot, I recommend you do the same.

At least, that’s the situation as I know (knew?) it. But then along comes D.Z. singing its praises after a recent positive experience there (why he was embargo-busting in the first place I’ve yet to find out:). Must say, his arguments seem convincing. So I’ll now pass the reins over to him, and let you decide for yourself…:

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Location: On board the Moscow to New York Delta flight (DL467), September, 2015. 

News: From December 1, 2015 Delta Airlines will be stopping its flights to Russia, for reasons known only to itself. However, I think Aeroflot and other airlines will be fully aware of the reasons, and understand, share and support them.

‘Delta’… the airline with traditionally unobtrusive air service. But this time… 

…One of the toilets at the front is ‘reserved for pilots only’. To one side of it there’s a trolley blocking the aisle; to the other there’s a flight attendant installed telling all-comers not to go further – ‘it’s for the pilots, and there are some safety rules’ or some such. When pressed, she remarks: ‘Use the other toilet!’. Ok! So the whole of business class gets in the endless line for the loo on the other side!

So what shall I do now? 

Terminator Genisys – watched! Mad Max 4 – watched a month earlier. Emails all sorted, Kaspersky Daily blogpost ready for publication.

But then, suddenly, somewhere between Norway and Iceland I notice the onboard Wi-Fi! $14.95 for an hour, $27.95 for the flight, $45.95 for the day. Ok. Credit card inserted, PIN entered, logged in. Let’s see how fast this baby goes…

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Woh! No sooner do I press ‘enter’ – I’m fully connected to the WWW! EH??!!

Read on: Will Eugene drop his embargo already?…

Reykjavikian white nights.

You know the score by now: I globetrot a lot on business. On my trips, if I’ve any stamina still left of an evening in the hotel – or afterwards on the flight back home/onwards – I share my (mostly) non-business-related impressions with you, dear readers of this blog. Sometimes stamina gets depleted – either from an intense business agenda, or from visiting too many places in too short a time.

Times like these, since I’m most always accompanied on my trips, I often pass the blogging reins over to a fellow traveler, who also has a pair of eyes – and invariably also has a much more fancy camera than me. For they like to write down their thoughts and impressions from the road too.

One such occasion recently arose after a midnight stroll around the Icelandic capital. And it wasn’t due to my being too tired this time: I had some work to do early the next day. Anyway, for whatever reason, here’s what DZ has to say about Reykjavik at night in summer…

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Reykjavik sits 64 degrees north of the equator; that’s the same as central Alaska or Arkhangelsk in Northern Russia. So yes, it gets cold. The place also has all the peculiar atmospheric phenomena associated with this high northern latitude. And in summer – the most interesting of these atmospheric phenomena, IMHO, are the ‘White Nights‘ – where the sun doesn’t really go down at all at night as it never sets over the horizon at it’s so far north.

Here in Reykjavik the ‘nights’ are of course shorter – and whiter – than in St. Petersburg, which is five degrees latitude lower down the planet. So it just wouldn’t have been right to not have had a walkabout the city, camera in hand, on our first night here. So we did the right thing…

Totally right: a leisurely ‘night’ stroll around Reykjavik in July is… unparalleled (apart from with other 64th parallel towns maybe:). It’s probably amazing in December too, but I’ll have to save that for a later date…

Reykjavik has a population of around 120,000 (and over 200,000 in the Capital Region)Reykjavik has a population of around 120,000 (200,000 including its surrounding region). The city is the heart of Iceland’s cultural, economic and governmental activity

In Reykjavik temperatures very rarely drop below −15 °C (5 °F) in the winter because the Icelandic coastal weather in winter is moderated by the Gulf Stream.In Reykjavik temperatures very rarely drop below −15°C (5°F) in the winter because the Icelandic coastal weather in winter is moderated by the Gulf Stream

Read on: Midnight rainbow do exist!…

Singapore through the eyes of a first-timer.

Hi all!

D.Z. – this is one of most distinguished and respected KLers, with us since last century (taking a brief creative break in the mid-2000s). D.Z. has also been my fellow traveler a d.z.illion times to… oh, practically everywhere on this planet – but surprisingly not to Singapore. He always takes with him a trusty large black (super-duper) DSLR camera with a dozen or so different lenses too – his tools to create most of the pro-level pics on this here blog and elsewhere. He’s also a great storyteller, so he helps out with all the tales I want to tell – whatever they may be about. Still, despite all these talents, plus his confirmed KL-Establishment member status, he is nevertheless the most modest guy you’d ever meet.

D.Z. et moiMr. modest… et moi (1999)

Like I say, somewhat surprisingly this was D.Z.’s first visit to Singapore. He liked the place so much he took more pics than he normally does and wrote a long write-up too. It’s true that there’s ‘nothing like the first time’. It’s also true that a fresh pair of eyes will see things in a foreign place that others who’ve been several times before already miss due to familiarity – or just plain tiredness from the non-stop globetrotting. Thus, in this post, I pass the reins over to D.Z. to let him give his ‘first-time’ account of this remarkable city – just for a different, fresher perspective.

My only comment to the story: want one book to read to get the real real deal on Singapore? Check it: Lee Kuan Yew – ‘From Third World to First

So, D.Z.’s tale:

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What do we know about Singapore?

It’s a long way away, hot and humid, skyscraping, totalitarian, and they beat you with sticks for dropping gum, spitting, walking barefoot, and other carnal sins. At least, those are the stereotypes impressions of I’d say the majority of non-Singaporeans from afar, for those are the bits that seem to end up in the world’s media about this city-state extraordinaire.

This was my first time in Singapore.

What I saw with my own eyes was far from what I expected – nothing like the above-described imaginings. I have habit of boning up on a country I’m planning on traveling to – to get to know the ‘real’ place and not get caught up in lazy stereotypes and maybe inadvertently insult or upset or annoy anyone. And Singapore’s real deal fairly amazed and intrigued me. The first half of the 19th century is packed with curious history I’d let pass me by, but it’s fascinating how it’s connected with all sorts of details of international relations of my time. 

Collisions of civilizations, a struggle for colonies and trade routes, the friction within and among European and Asian powers, wars, injustice, betrayal, greed and other unpleasantness… Singapore had more than its fair share of all of them. Its history is peppered with nightmare tales, but all the same, in spite of all that, today it stands as the shining example of a successful state based on humane, productive cooperation among peoples, helped by being at an important crossroads of civilization.

A natural competitive advantage of Singapore is its geographical location on a strategic sea route connecting East Asia with the rest of the world. Despite miraculous diversification of the economy in its 50 years of independence, already on the approach to Changi airport it becomes clear how this advantage still plays a hugely important role in the development of the country.

DSC_6506

Back in 1819 it was exclusively the geography of the island that made Britain’s Sir Stamford Raffles set up on the bank of the Singapore River a watch post. Within just several years it had become an important hub of influence of the British Empire in Asia.

Singapore was founded not on an empty greenfield site but on a longstanding fishing village in which folks of different nationalities and religious faiths had lived peacefully for a long time. The arrival of the British naturally saw the town take on a decidedly more European flavor. And, talking of flavors, incidentally the resultant Singaporean cuisine came to be a most interesting and original one – the dishes both tasty and unique.

Having founded Singapore, Raffles left it for a few years to do yet more of his bit for the Empire, handing over the reins to a Major-General William Farquhar for the duration. Upon Raffles‘ return three years later, he was met with two main developments – basically good news and bad. The good news was that the town had gotten much busier and bigger. The bad – it had gotten much busier and bigger un-systemically, resembling an eastern bazar than an exemplary model of a colony of the British Empire.

So a town council was quickly created under the supervision a Lieutenant Jackson, who soon developed a plan for the reconstruction of Singapore. In the main, it was divided up based on the ethnicity of the inhabitants; thus, European, Chinese, Indian, and Arab (Muslim) quarters emerged.

chinatown-singapore-1

It might seem correct at this point to label Jackson an out and out racist and accomplice in apartheid. However, it turned out that such division suited everyone just fine! Each group was happy to cook in its own juices – yet still work closely together; indeed, they’d be doing so for centuries before Raffles. Since then of course, in almost in 200 years, a lot has changed; all the same the main traits of the town-building designs of Jackson remain.

Singapore has two principal must-visits – Little India and Chinatown. Guess which ethnic nationalities make up most of their populations? Yep – Indians and Chinese, respectively, even after all these years. In fact the delineation is blurring somewhat, with many an Indian and much Indian signage to be seen in Chinatown, and vice versa. The result is a serious bit of multiculturalism: Pagodas, stupas, mandirs (Hindu temples), mosques and churches all together peacefully coexisting on small squares. Nice. All the same, the dominating cultural ‘signature’ of the districts remains.

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Read on: Chinatown vs Little India…