Daily #F1 News and Comment: Wednesday 5th March 2014

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Month Of March

The Sotchi GP and the Crimean crisis

Mercforce to rule down under (GMM)

F1 heading for Ibiza Azerbaijan debut (GMM)

Mad, mad, maddening madness

Masters and Students.

More exploding tyres in 2014?

Ecclestone not ruling out engine rules tweaks (GMM)

The power of Mercedes (GMM)

Reliability really is the key


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Month Of March

The 1978 Triumph Dolimite engined March F3 racing car driven by Nigel Mansell

The 1978 Triumph Dolimite engined March F3 racing car driven by Nigel Mansell

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The Sotchi GP and the Crimean crisis

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or have never seen a reality show called “The News”, you will have noticed that Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin is currently busy invading neighbouring Ukraine, engaging in a bit of occupation that isn’t entirely compatible with international law. Of course the West started screaming bloody murder and calls for the Sotchi GP to be cancelled can be heard from some of the fans.

Now lets forget for a moment that F1 ran in Bahrain while peaceful protesters were slightly beaten to death a couple of miles from the track and let’s think about what a boycott would do for the people in Ukraine. The simple answer is: Nothing. In fact not having sporting events in countries that don’t quite adhere to what we in the West declare to be the only possible way to run a society does more harm than good.

Would a boycott or the cancellation of the 1936 Olympic Games have changed anything in Hitler’s rise to power? Again the answer is a clear NO. A year prior the Nuremberg Racial Law had been introduced that summarily declared Jews and non-Caucasian people inferior and prohibited sexual relations and marriages with them. Yet the Olympic Games exposed German people to the spectacle of seeing how Jesse Owens whooped their Aryan behinds. There were many Germans, who started to question how an allegedly inferior beings can beat the best of the Herrenrasse. If anything, the Olympic games exposed the bigotry of Nazi racism and sowed the seeds of doubt in many Germans, who up to then had been steadfast believers in Nazi ideology.

The same can be said of the Sotchi Olympics. Russian contacts tell me that during the time of the Olympics, Russians in the area enjoyed a short while of unprecedented freedom, some of which will be hard for Putin to take back. History has shown time and time again that you don’t change things by boycotts and blockades. East and West Germany were bang smack in the middle of the Cold war. West German sportsmen would be disallowed to compete in events that were held in the Eastern part and vice versa. It didn’t make the damnedest difference. The thaw that eventually led to the fall of the Berlin wall started when Chancellor Willi Brandt decided to stop that rubbish and declared “change through rapprochement” the motto of his tenure.

Cancelling the Sotchi GP would be a ridiculous step backward. Having major events hosted in Russia helps the people and puts pressure on Putin. He will have a jolly hard time explaining why gays are ‘a danger to Russian society’, while the society in question could cope quite well with all the gay athletes that visited during the Olympics.

If anything, we should hold more major events in Russia, Iran, North Korea and other coveted holiday destinations. We shouldn’t ask what we can do against Putin, we should think what we can do for the Russian people.

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Mercforce to rule down under (GMM)

Mercedes heads into next weekend’s season opening Australian grand prix as the overwhelming early 2014 favourite. “Mercedes and Williams look very strong,” agreed German driver Nico Hulkenberg, whose similarly Mercedes-powered Force India team has also impressed in winter testing.

They’re standing out. McLaren is also fast,” he told Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport. “At the moment, the Mercedes teams are a bit in front.

Mercedes’ three customer teams – McLaren, Williams and Force India – appear to have hit the jackpot with clearly the best turbo V6 ‘power unit’ in F1’s new greener era.

At the moment that’s right,” Hulkenberg admitted, “but we all know how long a formula one season is. Let’s wait and see. On the last day (in Bahrain) Ferrari did a strong laptime, and (Daniel) Ricciardo has also done a 1.35 in the Red Bull.

“I’m assuming Red Bull will solve the problems sooner or later,” he said.

Williams, ninth of the eleven teams last year, has emerged as the surprise dark horse for 2014, having switched over the winter to Mercedes power.

They (Williams) have never had problems in the tests, have always been fast, although not quite as fast as Mercedes,” Red Bull’s Dr Helmut Marko told Austrian Servus TV.

Mercedes F1 chairman Niki Lauda said it is possible the German squad’s works team might be pushed by its British customer in 2014.

It (Williams beating Mercedes) can happen,” said the great triple world champion.

Our customers are very important for us, and if they can beat us, this is also good motivation and a very constructive competition,” added Lauda.

According to Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, however – whose Maranello squad has had a conspicuously low-profile winter – it is too soon to predict the outcome of the Melbourne race in just over a week.

Let’s see how many cars get to the finish of the first race,” he is quoted at the Geneva motor show by Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport. Indeed, it is rumoured Ferrari has been focused most specifically on reliability during the winter, and still has some performance to unfurl for the actual races.

We are careful,” Mercedes’ Toto Wolff told the APA news agency, “as some teams have not fully revealed the potential of their cars. I have no doubt Red Bull and Ferrari will be strong contenders,” he added. “Force India and Williams are also fast enough to win races.

It will be interesting!” added Wolff.

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F1 heading for Ibiza Azerbaijan debut (GMM)

Almost a year ago, Bernie Ecclestone stunned F1’s headline writers when he said plans were afoot for a race in Baku. Seasoned journalists quickly discovered it is the capital and largest city of Azerbaijan, an oil-rich former soviet state at the crossroads of Asia and Europe.

Now, London’s Times newspaper has quoted the F1 chief executive as saying Baku could be on the annual calendar as soon as next year. “They are talking about 2015,” said Ecclestone. “That may be a bit soon unless it is the end of the season. That is a possibility but 2016 is more likely.

To Azerbaijan’s north is Russia, whose president is Vladimir Putin, a man with controversial views on homosexuality that Ecclestone said recently he backs. Indeed, even with the Ukrainian conflict in full swing, Ecclestone plans to shortly travel to Russia to meet with Putin about converting Sochi’s new grand prix venue for floodlit racing in the future.

Ecclestone said Russia is a “no brainer” for F1. “We have to be there,” he said. “It is a huge market and full of potential fans for the sport. They really want F1 and we want a race there to work.

I have no problem with Vladimir,” Ecclestone is also quoted by the Daily Mail.

He ran a good winter olympics. We get on very well — no problems.

Less secure on the F1 calendar is Germany’s Nurburgring race, after Bernie Ecclestone was outbid despite offering to buy the fabled track for $50 million. Ecclestone told F1 business journalist Christian Sylt that a decision about another buyer for the Nurburgring is due on Wednesday.

The German Grand Prix is in trouble because they haven’t got any money,” Ecclestone is quoted by City A.M.

When I go to an auction I want to leave a bid, which is what I did, and somebody could offer more. I don’t know what’s happening there,” he added.

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Mad, mad, maddening madness

“Madness is rare in individuals –

but in groups, parties, nations and ages it is the rule”

– Friedrich Nietzsche

Surprise, surprise. The German GP is under threat. Last year, Ecclestone waived the hosting fee to for the Nurburgring to ensure the race went ahead. Mr. E had requested Hockenheim host the race, but the regional government refused to pay hosting fees on consecutive years.

The politics behind the hosting fees and how they are paid for in Germany is a regular bone of contention and it is hardly surprising each year we read the “German GP to be lost to F1” stories.

Then of course there is the matter of the Ecclestone failed $50m bid to buy Nurburgring, and another small matter of a Court hearing in Munich some time soon. Germany may not be Bernie’s favourite place at present.

So shouldn’t German industry and big business step up to the plate and support Formula 1? Well, Mercedes Benz has, does and is doing so. The Stuttgart based auto manufacturer has probably just invested over $200m in designing an new F1 engine.

The problem for F1 is there’s no fuzzy feel about it. Nothing endearing to hook in big business. Okay, Germany has had a race every year since 1950 – bar 2 – but do Porsche care whether F1 in Germany lives or dies? I suspect not.

F1 has a serious image problem at present and it could be argued this derives from 3 areas; the greed of the commercial right’s holders, the ineptitude of the FIA and its President to do anything constructive together with the navel gazing and short sighted petty, self indulgent disagreements the teams persist with over their future and the survival of the sport.

What’s the problem? This is quite simply not a perfect image to associate with if as a chief executive the business you lead has any kind of claims to an ethical philosophy.

Hey Ho…. Says Bernie….You lose one, you win one….

Germany down, Azerbaijan’s please step up.

The F1 calendar and its evolution in the modern era has a completely different feel to it. There used to be countless representatives from states around the world standing patiently in line with truck loads of cash wrapped in brown paper, awaiting an audience with F1’s supremo.

Today it feels as though Mr. E is scrabbling around somewhat to find a new F1 host with with to threaten the current promoters.

Okay, Azerbaijan is a rich country, and can afford an F1 race. Developing nations appear to identify with Ecclestone’s offer of a seat at the capitalist table, though as India and Korea have discovered, it does not always end well.

As Joe Saward observes, Transparency International ranks it {Azerbaijan] 127th out of 177 countries, on the same equal of perceived corruption as Russia. The Sarajevo-based Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) last year named Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev its person of year – which is not an award anyone actually wants to win”.

So is it a co-incidence that Russia and Azerbaijan are the highest ranked countries for crime and corruption, ever accepted into the F1 family?

Numerous responses spring to mind, and whilst F1 should be a-political, it is no surprise the only places stepping up to the plate to fund 6-7 year long F1 projects costing $600m are run by the gangsters and crooks of this world. They are the only one’s who can afford to play in F1’s current business model.

There isn’t a hope in hell Spain would be trying at present to enter the F1 family for the first time. The Spanish GP clings on, because of a sentimental view of its association with F1. Further, the fact that Valencia couldn’t afford to play Bernie’s game anymore sits well with those who wander Barcelona’s halls of power.

For them, the fact that it is the Catalan capital hosting the Spanish GP infers that ‘Spanishness’ itself is being redefined by the Catalan’s.

Where next for F1? Iran, North Korea and maybe a recently independent Crimea in the future?

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Pyongyang may deliver a sea of Red fans. Ferrari would feel at home

Seriously, many of the multinational companies who could be potential F1 sponsors have ethical policies to which they are accountable to their shareholders. A calendar that becomes increasingly questionable will be a turn off for them.

At times like this, despite the Bernie nostalgia, one realises it really is long overdue that he and CVC are ousted from F1 before the brand becomes a global laughing stock.

“Too much sanity may be madness –

and the maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be”.

– Miguel de Cervantes

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Masters and Students.

Behind Adrian’s back, his hand hovers over the blue phone. Christian rubs his creased brow repeatedly and is racked with guilt over his proposed course of action… yet the deed cannot be avoided.

The answer to the popularised question –  “Who you gonna call?” – may never have before solicited the reply. “Toro Rosso!”

Despite Marko’s vitriolic attack on Renault yesterday, it appears Milton Keynes have problems of their own with the brake by wire system on the RB10. It interacts with the ERS systems by damping the braking effect in the recovery phase, kind of like an ABS mechanism, regulating the force on the rear axle.

Autosprint are reporting the source of these problems is in fact a software malfunction (see Hippo’s rant from yesterday – splendid). So in effect, the ABS is failing and relinquishing control back to the driver, but the braking experience is highly erratic.

The Toro Rosso is not having these problems so their engineers have been engaged to assist the big brother team from Milton Keynes. Hey, imagine the pride of the Toro Rosso engineers when they send back a solution to Red Bull Racing to bolt onto the RB10, stamped with “technology made in Faenza, Italy”.

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More exploding tyres in 2014?

TJ13 commented as part of the summary of the Bahrain test II that Pirelli appeared to believe they are sitting pretty this year, having suffered untold embarrassment in 2013 following the graphic pictures beamed across the world of their exploding tyres..

Yet analysis of the demands of the circuit de Barcelona, Catalunya we brought to you from Pat Symonds caused TJ13 to question how much Pirelli may be affected by the rate of development the teams bring to their 2014 cars as we approach the middle of this season.

Pirelli are concerned about this factor as Paul Hembery now reveals. “You’ve got to be slightly more conservative because at one extreme you could end up with some cars going much quicker than others and that in itself is something you need to be aware of. Particularly the rate of development is something that we’re very conscious of this year. Last year it was one of the aspects that we learned during our experiences last year and we need to be much more attentive in terms of speed and rate of development”.

Yet can Pirelli really map this variable properly and design tyres for the entire season which will offer the grip required for the immature iterations of the cars, yet deliver a tyre which will perform similarly as the cars find ways of increasing torque, lateral loads and the operating temperatures invariably rise?

Given the increase in the cars’ minimum weights, it appears the new and somewhat unreliable 2014 versions are already running at speeds equivalent to those seen in 2013. Hembery explains, “As you can imagine, with new rules there is great potential for improvement in performance throughout the year; what we see [in testing] will be quite different to what we see at the end of the season. Already in terms of lap times if you take in to account 50 kilos – which is two seconds per lap – we are very close to the performance of last year already”.

As a rule of thumb, the cars develop over the course of a season to produce the equivalent of an incremental like for like 2 seconds per lap. With such revolutionary technology being introduced this year, it is possible this benchmark could be blown away and we see the rate of development double or even treble what has been normative.

Can Pirelli be expected to produce a tyre which will be satisfactory for the course of the entire year? It seems a tall order.

TJ13 believes we will see Pirelli asking for permission to revise the compounds sometime following Barcelona and prior to Silverstone, which would also allow for the special demands of Spa and Monza following the August break.

The F1 tyre manufacturer always has the option of enforcing changes to their rubber ‘on safety grounds’, though Pirelli refused point blank to do this in 2013 because it brings negative publicity.

However, unlike 2013, where Pirelli required the unanimous agreement of the teams to change their compounds, the advent of the F1 strategy group changes all that. 6 of the 18 votes on that committee belong to the FIA, 6 to Ecclestone and FOM and the final 6 votes represent the teams opinions.

Further, the in season tyre testing Pirelli have negotiated, mean they can pre-empt the point at which the cars are outgrowing the tyres, and provide detailed data and analysis to the F1 strategy group. It would then be this group of individuals who will be held responsible should exploding tyres fill our TV screens again.

For that reason alone, it is unlikely HD slow motion video of a tyre agonisingly tearing itself apart will be seen again.

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Ecclestone not ruling out engine rules tweaks (GMM)

Bernie Ecclestone is not ruling out tweaking F1’s radical new engine regulations. The sport’s chief executive is unashamedly no fan of the new turbo V6 era, having fought hard against replacing the screaming naturally-aspirated engines with the muted but ‘greener’ power units of the future.

We have got the new engines. I don’t like them,” he told journalist Christian Sylt, editor of the F1 trade guide Formula Money.

Maybe we can up the fuel restrictions and they can rev higher. We will have to wait and see,” said Ecclestone.

Making clear he is not simply opposed to any change, the 83-year-old insisted he doesn’t even mind the look of the questionably-aesthetic new noses.

You get used to the looks,” he said. “Whenever there’s a change people say I don’t like it. Don’t think you’re going to get used to no noise though.

But I’ve never seen the point in changing the engines to save energy,” Ecclestone insisted. “That’s something you can do in street cars, but not in formula one.

We need to be loud and fast,” the Briton added, “and one thing is certain: this whole thing has cost a giant mountain of money.

Meanwhile, Ecclestone claims he could have avoided the criminal trial in Munich, which is set to start in April and could end his long reign over F1.

I could have stopped it with money,” he said, “but I didn’t pay. Now I hope for the best.

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The power of Mercedes (GMM)

Niki Lauda has revealed that Mercedes’ new turbo V6 engine produces “about 580” horse power. It is a rare admission in the highly-secretive world of formula one, but field-leading Mercedes’ F1 chairman wasn’t giving the whole game away.

Asked to put a number on the German marque’s early-season superiority, Lauda told Austrian Servus TV: “The fuel engine is about 580 horse power. Then there is the electrical side,” he added, without elaborating.

It is known that the energy-recovery or ‘ERS’ side of the ‘power unit’ adds 160 horse power to the equation, but Lauda’s figures just made fellow Austrian Dr Helmut Marko – of the struggling world champions Red Bull – grin.

Interesting data,” Marko smiled. “I would be happy if I had 580hp.

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Reliability really is the key

Much has been written about Red Bull’s problems and opinion is split – though not equally – as to whether they can recover to challenge for much in Australia.

Of course getting some good mileage under the belt prior to rolling from the pit garages in anger down under is important. We all know that the Mercedes power units have covered twice the distance that the Renault runners managed in the three tests, though some would argue Renault has the know how to analyse the data collected no matter how limited it is as a sample.

Yet, what is meaningful data? Even if the total laps completed is reasonable, the data collected may be very little. Should a test programme of 10 laps be truncated to just a few, the information the engineers can gather from the data is not worth very much.

So reliability is not just a measure of whether a car can complete a race distance, it is a measure of the quality of data gathered by a team in testing.

Here’s an interesting graph demonstrating the teams’ reliability pre-season, by average track mileage for each failure on track.

No wonder there is growing respect for Williams from the likes of Domenicali, Lauda, Marko and others.

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50 responses to “Daily #F1 News and Comment: Wednesday 5th March 2014

  1. Sport and poltics shouldn’t really mix, crikey if we stopped hosting grandprix’s in every country that did things is shouldn’t, i think we’d only be left with spa…….

    Sorry Judge, i’ve lost my own argument, a 20 race calendar just consisting of Spa, hmmmmmm

    • It never ceases to amaze me that F1 thinks it’s the be all and end all. The sport is insignificant to Putin if it does not serve his purpose..

    • 😉 Jamie

      As I wrote the other day, if F1 doesn’t go racing in Sochi – it will be because it can’t due to international sanctions etc or a war – which Russia says it doesn’t want.

      This is completely different from Bahrain where F1 had to make a judgement call – and did so.

      Behind the scenes I can tell you, the debates on the ethics of supporting the Bahraini ruling family we infinitesimally greater in number than those debating the safety angle.

      Newey refused to attend on F1’s return.

  2. Re: Month of March photo – Wow! And people think that the noses on this year’s cars are ugly?!?

    • Totally agree. As for Bahrain- well the government completely crushed and wiped out the protestors so happy days today and no more problems.

      Im sure the Russian Grand Prix will go ahead regardless of whether Russia decide to commence a full-scale invasion of Ukraine or not. Bernie will continue his relationship with Putin (“Top Bloke”) and people will die. As for the comparisons with the Sochi Olympics- Im sure the local population did enjoy a more ‘liberal’ time whilst the Olympics were on, however they werent being subjected to an invading foreign army at the time.

      Hitlers Olympics will be remembered for the hero that is Jesse Owens, but somehow I cant see any F1 driver becoming a political symbol of hope at the Russian Grand Prix.

      • …. Most droll, thanks Steve

        I have to disagree. If there are full international sanctions and definitely if there is a war, F1 will be prevented from going – by one means or another – whether from the dark art of persuasion or dictat.

        • Do you think it possible we could see some teams attend and others not depending on their corporate governance? Would have potentially interesting ramifications for the WCC if some teams couldn’t attend.

        • The difference b/w Bahrain and Russia for GP’s is that Bahrain didn’t invade a sovereign country (it just suppressed domestic agitators) – Russia, on the other hand, has invaded a sovereign nation, which is a hugely significant violation of international law for anyone who’s keeping score…

      • Maybe Vettel’s 1 finger salute could become the peace symbol for all!? Although, I somehow doubt this

  3. To be fair I couldn’t really care less which countries do or don’t hold a GP for whatever reasons, I just want racing. I mean, I attend them all via my front room, so the location is a little irrelevant. Yes it’s sad that there are goings on around the world that make you glad you don’t live their, but not one bit of it effects me directly and I have zero power to change things so to me it’s a bit of a moot point as to which country should or shouldn’t host a race, it depends which side of the fence you sit as to who are the terrorists and who are the heros.
    So it is not for us to judge, just watch the available races and enjoy them.

    • yeah but seeing f1 cars circulating some far away barren wasteland with half empty stands and a bland track design is a turnoff and dimishes the color, atmosphere and excitement needed to stop losing viewership and gain new fans.

  4. I know webbuary is over but has anyone seen on YouTube the clip with Hitler going mad about F1.
    Search
    Hitler is reminded Mark Webber has left F1 (2014 season)

    It’s priceless…..

  5. All these meeting Bernie takes with Putin… Makes me think he should meet with Obama to get the New Jersey race going.

  6. The Sochi GP is a private enterprise while the Russia-Ukraine-Crimea crisis of 2014 is a political one. I think it’s appropriate for Western politicians who disagree with Putin on Ukraine to boycott political events on Russian soil. However, I don’t see how a boycott could possibly happen with Formula 1 being a private business.

    • … and that in a world where freedom is absolute that would be true….

      …Yet there would be huge political pressure overt and covert brought to bear…..

  7. First prediction for this year’s league now in place – first time doing one of these so pls be gentle! 🙂

    • ….I just laid Vettel to win in Melbourne last night with a bloke adamant the Newey/Vettel genius partnership will find a way – took a tenner at 12/1….

        • …will be the sweetest tenner I’ve ever won 😉

          … to be honest I’ll probably get 40’s after the Bull catches fire in FP1, so I can close out the bet before the race is run….

          When I did an odds piece after Bahrain, Vettel was still evens to win in Melbourne – wish I’d laid that off for at least a ton….

          …and this from someone who may have 5-6 bets a year – hahahaha (manic cackle)

          • At that rate, you’ll soon be in good company with the other gamblers who own F1.

    • What’s your team name Dave? I’ll try and include you in the weekly reviews

  8. Azerbaijan is a rich country

    Not really:
    GDP – per capita (PPP): $10,700 (2012 est.)

    It’s merely home to some very rich thugs.

    • Well Bernme will be at home (almost) then.

      Anyone checked out whether there’s any extradition protocol in place for Azerbaijan between Britain and Germany? Just thinkin’ 🙂

    • Azerbaijan has quite a bit of oil. For example, it’s military budget is about 2 billion USD a year, which is a lot for such small country. The problem is that the income distribution is highly unequal, mainly due to corruption. An affluent government elite and their cronies control how the money is spent, and as result a lot of the money ends up in their pockets, while average people specially in provinces are quite poor, this is why there are like 1 million Azeris live in Russia. In certain sense, Azerbaijan is the most authoritarian country in the post-Soviet space. It’s the only place where its first post-Soviet ruler was able to transfer his power to his son.

  9. Very telling that reliability graph. Imagine if Williams does a Brawn!

    Is there a chance though that the works team may have pushed the engine a bit more? They were quite reliable in the first 2 tests and only in the last one problems started appearing.

    • Or maybe they (works team) designed their car to tighter tolerances due to knowing more about the engine whereas Williams had to build in a tolerance to accommodate for what they did not know…

      That said, Mercedes only changed their first engine in Bahrain so maybe Williams was using more engines?

      • Not entirely sure, but memory tells me that they were in the same boat as Merc, just that their engine made it to the last day of testing.

    • I’m finding it very hard to believe that graph. Marussia covered very few miles (only a handful of laps most days) and certainly had some stoppages on track yet they’re reported as one of the most reliable in the graph? Something is broken somewhere

      • The graph takes into account short runs without breaking down. Marussia did many of these…

  10. You are absolutely right that politics and sports shouldn’t interfere, but the fact that you need so much words to make that point in itself proves that you still didn’t get your own point completely, jmho…

    • Ok didn’t realise video would actually show, was just expecting link to show, kind of ruins the “whose chose 69” conundrum

      • Yeah totally unlucky automatic thumbnail! I appreciated your effort anyway 😉

    • Hm yeah, as a casual Observer I would prefer Pinkham and Brookes to choose that one. Pinkham and Brookes – what’s in a name…

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