The ‘Neeeeow’ man from Austin breaks cover, & official F1 reacts!

Many will recall the live feed being ‘audio bombed’ by a spectator who managed to perform some interesting F1 car sounds into an FOM trackside microphone – broadcast live to the world feed.


Well it seems the culprit has been identified on Twitter. A spectator located at the top of the observation tower, clearly next a microphone making car noises during the race.

At the time, the F1 twitter account tweeted the interruption declaring it funny.

But today, it was revealed by @Ibaeza06 on Twitter, who the mystery person was when a video was sent out showing the impressionist at work.


Official F1 Twitter account reacts


Austin US Grand Prix – Redux

And because the race weekend in Texas was a particularly good one, plus the fact that TJ13 wasn’t able to publish either the Qualifying or Race reviews, relive that amazing race weekend below.


Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Mattpt55

Ambient 26° Track 28° Humidity 84% Wind 4.3 m/s



Cold and grey were the skies over COTA as the teams made their last minute ministrations to the cars, readying them for the travails of qualifying.

With no useful running the day before thanks to the utter deluge that assaulted the circuit, the weekend was rapidly turning into a question mark, and not just the will Hamilton win the WDC one.

Ferrari for one, reverted much of the changes they had made since Singapore as the wet on Friday left them unable to properly evaluate what was happening and they decided to rock their tried and true spec.

With that change they had made the top of the FP3 leaderboard with Vettel and Raikkonen going P1-P2 with Mercedes just thousandths off their pace, and increased Toto Wolffs consumption of antacids threefold.

This was fortunate as Vettel had managed to pick up a penalty for speeding under red flags (yes, IKR???!!!) and was going to be dinged 3 grid spots from wherever he finished in qualifying.

In fact, such was the level of uncertainty facing the teams, given 3 days of entirely different weather, that the commentariat was noticing how much more interesting things were when all the answers weren’t known before the race started, leading many to call for abolition of Friday practice altogether.

Leaving, of course, unanswered the question of how FOM would make an extra day’s revenue up to the promoters who are indeed paying rather a lot for the privilege of a 3 day weekend at the moment.

If you thought the teams were unhappy about the current revenue drop due to increased marketing spend, imagine the fun when a third of revenues walks out the door “just to spice up the show”. Would love to be a fly on the wall when the poor exec tasked with explaining this tries to point out that with a whole days less running, the teams will be spending less too……

In any event, it wasn’t just Ferrari’s pride at stake as the seconds ticked down to the start of the session, the incredible Formula B battle for best of the rest had tightened and at the current rate, HAAS looked like it was just going to eek Renault, but they were both being threatened by now properly funded Force India, whose developments during the lean season were making them every bit as competitive as had been expected…..



Green Light!! Hartley was first out of the gate with Gasly trailing along a few seconds back, eager to trial the latest upgrades on their Honda PUs. Stroll, Raikkonen, Sirotkin and Vettel followed suit as teams wanted to get some extra laps in. Sauber had joined the fray by time Hartley was underway, with a vicious tailwind down the mainstraight not exactly helping into T1.

As Gasly was into S2 on his run, the Ferraris got the business started at the sharp end of the field. Gasly ditched Hartley by nearly half a second while the Ferraris split the first 2 sectors, Raikkonen S1 and Vettel S2. Across the line and it was Vettel ahead of Raikkonen by 0.369 seconds with a 1:34.569. Along with those times, Gasly had his first effort deleted as he went all 4 off on T9, very much a no-no in this session apparently.

12 minutes to go and Mercedes were out to play, with Red Bull out just ahead. Verstappen was off on his first effort, with Vettel trailing him on go round number two and looking a bit cleaner than the first time round, as the track itself was still evolving. P3 for Verstappen, but not for long as both Hamilton and Bottas were on it, with Bottas finishing ahead of Vettel and Hamilton crushing it, losing time only in the last corner and going P1 for the time being.

Again, Ferrari were on their 3rd run as the radio message confirmed that despite being safe with their times, Mercedes would be having another run. Grosjean took honours in the Formula B contest with 6 minutes left in the session, as the teams all retreated to the pits to prepare for the last tilt for the glories of Q2.

Along the way, Verstappen developed some kind of serious issue, and just managed to limp it into the pitlane. It was not looking good for the Dutchman as Hamilton lowered his time and the immediate diagnosis was a broken rear suspension.

On the outside looking in were Alonso, Sirotkin, Ericsson, Vandoorne and Stroll, with Hartley riding the bubble. 2:46 to go and as Hamilton rolled around to the end of his cooldown lap, it was Ocon, Alonso, and Vandoorne leading the way for the full vanguard of the midfield teams with Perez looking to be last across the line.

Personal bests for Ocon, but Alonso was the real interest as he looked to make Q2 and too was rocking PB’s as he hit the middle sector. Ocon to P7 and then Alonso to P13.

Vandoorne could only manage P17 and it was Hartley, looking scruffy early and with it all to do now Alonso had kicked him into the drop zone. Hulkenberg nabbed P9 and then Leclerc went P11 dropping his teammate out of Q2.

Hartley across the line with P15 and a bit of redemption for the Kiwi making Q2. With neither Sirotkin nor Stroll making it across it was Alonso, Sirotkin, Stroll, Ericsson and Vandoorne off to find some 72 oz steaks as the rest of the field turned it around for Q2.

Q2 opened with Mercedes leading the way, trailed by Ferrari, Bottas, Hamilton then Raikkonen and Vettel with Hulkenberg sandwiched between the two drivers.

Of the sharp end, it was Raikkonen on the Ultrasofts splitting tyre strategy for Ferrari, with the rest on the seemingly more race friendly Supersofts. On the Supers, it was Vettel who was quickest in the first sector.

Through the second sector, the results were similar and as they crossed the line, it was Vettel fastest of all but Raikkonen who was rocking the softer tyre.

Hamilton’s opening time was poor enough he was given orders to go for another lap, whilst the departure of Verstappen opened P6 up and it was Leclerc momentarily best of the rest with 9 minutes left in the session.

As Lewis lit it up for the second time, the race for Formula B hotted up with RoGro slotting in just behind Leclerc, with Ocon and Hulkenberg rounding out the top 10.

At the end of his lap Hamilton had improved to P3 and it was Sainz, Kmag, Gasly, Hartley and, natch, Verstappen on the outside looking in, with Sainz blaming Magnussen for holding him up.

Given the penalties for Toro Rosso it was interesting to see them running for times. Around they went as the rest had retired for the last preparations, and then into the pits before setting a time they went, a last shakedown before the race tomorrow.

3 minutes to go and Ocon led the way, with Gasly behind and then Kmag, RoGro and Hulkenberg. A second group emerged about 20 seconds later, Perez, Sainz, Leclerc with Vettel, Hamilton and Bottas all out on the Ultras, just in case, and/or to get a better feel for Q3. Toro Rosso continued to hit the pitlane rather than complete laps as the rest were on it.

Early days it was Kmag looking to get the job done, but even with personal bests he was off both Ocon and Lerclerc through the first sector.

Checquers and then it was P12 and done for Kmag, and with that, it was Sainz the only one to be able to dispatch Hulkenberg in P10. It was a run of no improvements though and by the staggeringly small margin of 0.002 seconds Hulkenberg made Q3 whilst Sainz was off along with Magnussen, Gasly, Hartley, and Verstappen, in search of some Texas sized margaritas to drown their sorrows.

The fulminant glory of Q3 awaited and the preparations were at fever pitch as the track awaited the opening of the pitlane.

Again, Mercedes led the way, with Hulkenberg sandwiched neatly in between Bottas leading and Hamilton trailing. Behind, it was Raikkonen, Ocon and Vettel taking their turn as they got ready to play for all the marbles. Perez, Grosjean and Ricciardo was the last trio on the road, leaving just Leclerc parked as Bottas wound it up through the final turn to kick off the proceedings.

The board dripped purple as the Finn rocked the first sector, but it was Raikkonen, behind, taking away the toys, outdoing both the Mercedes drivers.

But Vettel further back outdid him and in the second sector, it was Hamilton who was dominant, with only a twitch through the last turn robbing him of taking honours for 2/3s of the lap and going P1 regardless.

Vettel, crossing the line after, was not able to outdo Hamilton, but he did split the Silver Arrows, going P2 by just 0.088 seconds and keeping Mercedes honest. Ferrari was clearly back as they headed in to make the final adjustments for the last, desperate scramble for king of the hill. Grosjean, Ocon, Hulkenberg and Perez were best of the rest as everyone rocked back into the pitlane.

3:30 to go and off they went for the final go round, Bottas again leading the way, but with Hulkenberg, Ocon and Raikkonen in between before Hamilton was out. Vettel wsa directly behind him and then Perez Leclerc and Ricciardo to round it off.

Not much in it for Bottas, but Raikkonen showed some improvement, so time was there for the taking. Hamilton too bettered his time as he flashed through but it was Vettel turning it purple as Raikkonen kept up the relentless pressure.

Lewis responded with a purple S2 and as he hit S3 it was Kimi through for provisional pole. But purple again for Lewis in S3 and then it was Vettel, up into S3 with the last chance on the road. But the might of the Mercedes was just a bit much through the final turns and it was Hamilton, hanging on by his fingernails by just 0.061 seconds taking pole position, followed by Vettel and Raikkonen, crucially for Ferrari, ahead of Bottas in P4.

Ricciardo P5 and then it was the turn of the best of the rest, with Ocon, Hulkenberg, Grosjean, Leclerc, and Perez promising to make things interesting on the Sunday.

Also on board to spice things up is the split tyre strategy being run by Ferrari, and with Vettel’s penalty putting him back to P5 that means Kimi on the faster tyre and with the inside run to T1 was on hand to play spoiler to keep Vettel’s WDC chances alive.

Equally important, with the WCC far from decided it suddenly falls to Ferrari to keep both drivers moving forward int tomorrow’s race. The savage battle for best of the rest will also be in full bloom and with all the drivers expressing savage anxiety about the tyres, the contest tomorrow could be something special indeed….


Remember, Play Nice in the Comments!



Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Mattpt55

Ambient 21° Track 29° Humidity 38% Wind 2.5 m/s



A crystal clear day, the sky an endless vaulted arch, crisp with a savage wind, a complete change from the day before in qualifying which was, in itself, a complete change from the biblical deluge of practice 2 days ago….

The massive uncertainty accompanying this most certainly had the FIA wondering if perhaps they could write these sorts of weather changes into the regulations as it did spice up the show.

On reflection, perhaps they figured in any event it would get stalled in the Strategy Group and perhaps they were indeed better off mucking about in margins of the technical regulations, mostly out of sight.

On the subject of such politics, Ferrari were still making noise about the ruling from the FIA’s Nicolas Tombazis that Mercedes’ “limited illegality” rear wheel update was an issue they felt was not closed. Also not closed, was the issue of the failure of the Ferrari update package.

Given the lack of Friday running and the inability to glean useful data, Ferrari reverted much of its updates and suddenly were once again neck and neck with Mercedes.

No doubt the designers were sent back to their room to do much complicated maths to figure out all the whys, but the whats were much simpler: in this configuration, the Ferrari is competitive with the Mercedes.

And on a hotter day and no usable tyre data from the weekend, it was going to take something special from them to ruin Vettel’s prolonging the inevitable…. Chuck in Raikkonen starting on the Ultras to everyone else’s Super along with the savage battle for the Formula B title, and COTA looked to be on the verge of delivering some genuinely interesting racing as the United States Grand Prix prepared to kick off….



Lights Out!!!! Good start from Hamilton as he immediately went to the inside to cut off Raikkonen, but the Finn took full advantage of the superior traction of his tyres and by time Hamilton got there, it was too late.

Up the hill into T1 they went, with Lewis’ out of options as Raikkonen gently but effectively returned the favor the Mercedes’s driver had shown to so many others (well, OK, mostly Rosberg) over the years at COTA.

Behind, Vettel had run extraordinarily wide at T1, leading a train of other drivers away from the madness, but as the field wound it’s way through the esses, he rapidly made up the ground to Ricciardo in P4. But first, sheer chaos as the Stroll once again found his favorite early race target, torpedoing Alonso as he attempted to re-enter the track after missing the apex to the inside and going all 4 off.

The contact stove in Alonso’s sidepod and showered the track with debris. Twitterati eagerly awaited the Spaniards latest venomous comments with bated breath as Grosjean and Leclerc too, had had a coming together.

First, Leclerc punted him wide and then Leclerc had contact with Perez as they dueled. Finally, as RoGro trailed the pair into the T12 he locked up and slid into the Sauber, removing his front wing in the process, having misjudged the speed the Force India was going to carry through the turn…

Ahead of that melee, Vettel had already taken advantage of the long straight down to the same turn, pulling out of the slipstream and accelerating easily by the Red Bull of Ricciardo. But Ricky Danny had saved his special magic for the braking zone and regained much of the distance lost as they slowedon entry.

Vettel, too, had trouble with his braking, with an unsettling twitch of the rears. As they entered the T13-T14 complex Recciardo took full advantage of Sebastian’s loss of momentum, whaling alongside Vettel who halfway through the turns picked up oversteer and snap! just like that their front wheels touched and again Vettel was spun off the track, lighting up his tyres as he desperately sought to regain the circuit with the loss of as few places as possible.

10 would be the verdict as the field completed the opening lap, with Raikkonen in the lead (yes, I’m really writing that not during a pit stop sequence) and Vettel having enormously complicated his day.

The first lap proved costly for Leclerc and Grosjean as well, but the big winners of the lap 1 lottery were Hulkenberg and Sainz, now P5 and P6 thanks to Vettel with the Ocon and Perez behind, the Mexican having survived his contact with Leclerc realtively unscathed.Stroll, Alonso, Grosjean and Leclerc all availed themselves of the pits and Alonso did not disappoint all those waiting with his radio message that these guys were impossible to race with.

His brutal evisceration was due to continue, however, as upon inspection by the team his day was over. Claimming to just be disappointed, not upset because his race was ended after 600 metres, he went on to say “I say because I drive in other series with amateur drivers in and things like that and there never is a problem. So, there are more amateurs here than in other series.” No idea whom he might be referencing….

Back on the circuit, things were predictably tight in the midfield, with sub 1 second gaps from P9 back as they began their second lap of the circuit.

But perhaps the driver with the best start was Verstappen, who started on the Softs from the back, had efficiently knifed his way through the field and was running P9, just 13 seconds from the lead, albeit, aided by the chaos ahead of him at the start.

Vettel, too, had been working his way forward and by time lap 5 rolled around, he was up to P10, but unlike Verstappen, he was 20 seconds back and with a much bigger hill to climb.

Perez radio was the first to crackle to life with tyre warnings, with his rear tyre temperature getting on the high side, just as Vettel closed in for the kill. Into T1 and into 9th went the Ferrari as Stroll picked up a drive through for his efforts, certain not to speed his day up any.

He served it immediately, on lap 6, and that put him to the back, Grosjean having abandoned after struggling around for a lap or 2 and concluding the damage was too severe.

At the front, Ricciardo was just outside a second behind Bottas, and, mirabile dictu, Verstappen had just completed an overtake on Hulkenberg, and was just 7 seconds astern of his teammate and in possession of P5 and the world looking a bit rosier for the Dutchman.

Lap 9 would be one for the history books, however as halfway through the lap, rather audibly on the world feed, someone went “Neeeooowww, neeeeoowww” a remarkable 7 times and then, 2 or 3 more after everyone thought it was over and done with.

This distracted from the fact that Raikkonen was beginning to lose some serious time to Hamilton, about half a second a lap. And then, just like that, Ricciardo pulled over, day done with a total loss of power.

According to Horner after the race, it was similar to Bahrain, but officially called a battery issue by the team. 3 guesses as to whose fault he said it was (hint: not Red Bull’s).

The recovery was deemed cause for bringing out the Virtual Safety Car, and Max’s day of miracles continued, as now he was also clear of his teammate with no loss of time whatsoever and with fuel and tyre savings as they rolled about at a reduced pace.

When it dropped he was 15 seconds off the lead and when it rolled off he was but 12, thanks to the non-Einstenian universe of VSC time.

As the laps under the VSC ticked off, however, the real question was would Raikkonen take advantage to ditch the ever more useless Ultras for a smaller than normal penalty.

As lap 11 approached he rolled by the pits with nary a glance and as they circled for the second time, it was Hamilton’s radio that popped to life, and he was told to box opposite to Kimi if the VSC was on. This made sense as he would either gain track position or an essentially free pitstop.

Around the corner they went and into the pits went the Mercedes, out onto a set of Softs and having lost a position only to Bottas, who was likely not to hold him up. This gained him 10 seconds on Raikkonen but with 44 laps left, the question was could he make them last.

Pirelli certainly didn’t think so, guessing 35 laps at a maximum and frankly, neither did Ferrari, telling Kimi that Lewis was certainly on a 2 stopper. The start of lap 12 the VSC was off and the following lap saw Mercedes’s wisdom confirmed, as Hamilton was rocking up at more than a second a lap. By Bottas he went and by 6 laps later and it was on.

Onto the back of Raikkonen and the first serious attempt came on lap 20 into T1, with Kimi covering off the inside line and a careful Hamilton not willing to risk it all. The straight line speed of the Ferrari came to the Finn’s advantage, staving off the attempt into T12, but it was clear that he was struggling with his 22 lap old tyres.

Again into T1 Hamilton had a look, but kept his nose out as Bottas began to catch up to the battle. Closer and closer he eked, as Hamilton gave another try round the outside of T13 but he backed off again The triple right of T16-18 was the next opportunity and Raikkonen made his car wide as possible to stave off the Mercedes with some serious defense.

As they approached the final turn, into the pits Raikkonen went, but not before costing his rival some serious time.

Raikkonen emerged in P5, behind Vettel, now in P4, and it now looked to be a question of whether Mercedes could make the tyres last.

Vettel was told this was a critical phase and as lap 23 entered the books it was Verstappen told to pit opposite Bottas. Out stayed Valterri and in came Verstappen as the size of Raikkonen’s hill was officially confirmed as 17 seconds to the front. Max was out with a pair of Supersofts, having run Softs on his first stint, and just 4 seconds to Raikkonen, one place ahead.

Bottas covered it off the following lap, but the undercut was fierce, and Verstappen had the place, now running an effective P3 with Vettel yet to pit. A fastest lap for Kimi saw Vettel dodging out of the way into T1 and handing P3 to his teammate. Verstappen was the only other runner in the 1:38’s as he tried to close down the gap to Raikkonen before his tyres began to go off.

It was also an inflection point for Hamilton as the decision for Mercedes was do they extend or do they run it out and come in. With Raikkonen on fresh tyres with a 10 lap offset, inside his pit window the best answer looked to be eke it out, get maximum offset and then bring him in and chase.

As the race settled into its strategy phase, both Raikkonen and Verstappen seemed content to follow along at Hamilton’s pace, awaiting the inevitable 2nd stop. Bottas, too, seemed less than inclined to press the issue.

Vettel was the only one setting fast laps, having come in for Softs and in the process of tyring to chunk back as much time on Hamilton as possible. Lap 31 and he was 15 seconds behind Bottas and nearly 40 off Hamilton, though with another stop that gap would effectively be halved.

Lap 32 and it all began to go sideways, as Lewis was now into some serious traffic while behind, Raikkonen was still in free air. Slowly the air began to go out of the gap that Hamilton had built as Leclerc was called in to retire the following lap.

15 seconds at the end of the lap and with his lap time spiraling, Mercedes kept him out as he carved his way through traffic. Lewis was well aware, calling in for blue flags as he wonked up on the thickest part of the midfield.

Vettel was down to 32 seconds from 40 and Raikkonen was just 12 seconds off. Of course, Kimi, too, would have to navigate this traffic but the advantage goes to the trailing driver, as lapped traffic tends to move quicker once the first driver had gone through.

Two more laps and below 10 seconds now, presumable the maths still working in Hamilton’s favour as to how hard he would be able to push with his new tyres. But at the same time, he radioed in that the rears were going just as Bottas crossed into his pit window. And going they were, with his laptimes into the 1:41’s as Kimi casually strolled around in the 1:39’s and Vettel continued to burn in the 1:38s.

Lap 37 and Mercedes brought him in, onto a set of Softs as his rears coming off were thoroughly shredded. Out just behind his teammate and immediately into chase mode.

By lap 39, he was under 3 seconds off Bottas and 12 seconds to make up to catch Raikkonen, but with 16 lap fresher tyres. Into the 1:37’s he went, setting fastest lap as it was on. But the important place was Verstappen’s, as with that place as they ran, the WDC was his.

Vettel, however, had some of his own ideas about this, catching Bottas at a tremendous pace and just 5 seconds back with 15 laps to go.

Looking at the times, it seemed clear that the Ferraris were losing less time in traffic than the Mercedes, for whatever reason. At this point, Lap 43, with all the pitstops run, it was Raikkonen leading (yes, hard to believe I wrote that, but true) with the chase behind hotting up and the outcome far from certain.

Bottas was in the most trouble, with blisters spotted on his tyres as he had now crossed his Rubicon, needing to eke his tyres out to the end with a pitstop sure to put him out of the running and crush Hamiltons’s WDC chances for this race. 2 laps later and the accordion had contracted, with the top 3 all within 5 seconds and Vettel practically in DRS of Bottas.

Round and round they went, with Raikkonen finally responding to Hamilton’s pace but with the traffic it was basically a second betwen them as lap 50 approached and the first battle, between Hamilton and Verstappen loomed with the laps ticking down.

Lap 51 and Hamilton finally grabbed Verstappen’s DRS, but too far back to make a move. Down the long back straight, eking out every tenth but still too far as they rounded the final turn and pounded along, up the hill into T1. Still in DRS, but making no imprint as Verstappen managed to get DRS on Raikkonen, offsetting Hamilton’s advantage.

Lap 53 and with backmarkers approaching, Verstappen was told that it was a “world of pain” awaiting the leader with opportunities aplenty. But Hamilton was simultaneously closing down the gap and he was the one now on the attack, as Vettel, too, had now closed down Bottas and lingered just slightly more than a second astern as Valterri attempted to limp his tyres across the finish line.

IT was Vettel closest on the following lap, but as Hamilton chased Verstappen down the long straight into T12, the Dutchman had a moment into T1 and as they approached T12 Lewis had closed him down significantly.

Again difficulty for Max going into T12 going wide and opening the door for Lewis. Hamilton went for the cutback but Verstappen ruthlessly closed that out as they battled through the T13 complex. Again a bite at the cutback and denied, then around the outside went Lewis through T16-T18, but Max ran him out of room and he was wide, through the dirt and off, his chance done after 6 turns of wheel to wheel action.

In the end, perhaps discretion and valor for Hamilton, for whom losing 15 points would be a far worse fate than gaining 3.

2 laps to go then, after that excitement and it was Vettel all over the back of Bottas into T12. Bottas coverd off the inside line, but then braked and went deep, leaving Vettel to neatly snick by and into P4.

Whatever chance Hamilton had for the WDC wandered off for a beer at that moment and into the final lap his battle with Verstappen had granted Raikkonen the room he needed to get the job done. And with that final lap, Raikkonen stuck it into the books, his first win since 2013 and yay team old guys, then Verstappen and Vettel to round out the top 3.


Hard to overstate the fun of Kimi winning a race again, and win it he did with a ferocious defense. Plenty of questions for Mercedes, starting with a published report that they had blanked off the wheel holes in their trick new rear set up, after they were told that ala Renault and HAAS, Ferrari were free to ask for a stewards ruling on their legality, despite the opinion of the FIA technical department (which is normal and always the case).

Rather than risk it, Mercedes made overnight mods but the real issue for them came in the last minute replacement of the water pumps in both cars in parc ferme, after an issue was found in Bottas’ car. Apparently in the rebuild, they incorrectly installed the weights, leading to a serious imbalance in the car, reportedly 50 kg off from one side to the other.

That sounds like (and is) rather a lot in such a finicky machine and well explains Mercedes strategy, as pitting Hamilton much earlier would’ve left him vulnerable at the end of the race to both Verstappen and Raikkonen.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment was Ricciardo, who, in his last races with the team might actually have been best placed to take the win, before his car just stopped.

Fortunately for him, Mexico has been a bright spot for the team ever since it rejoined the calendar so he has at least one more chance to take a bite of the apple before he heads to the rebuilding Renault, to taste life in the midfield.

Of course, the WDC now rolls over to Mexico, one of Mercedes’ bogey tracks but it’s all over but the inevitable champers and caps, just a question of when, more than who.

With Ferrari outpointing Mercedes, the somewhat closer WCC is down to just 66 points, but worth bearing in mind that because both drivers can score, it would be the driver’s equivalent of 33 points. Still Mercedes to lose though and as the end of the season draws closer, the pressure mounts and mistakes multiply….


And remember to play nice in the comments!!

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