One Week with Windows Phone 8.1

Lumia Cyan

I’ve now spent one week with the Lumia Cyan and Windows Phone 8.1 update. My Nokia Lumia 820 has never felt so complete; yet with Windows Phone 8 installed it felt so empty and incomplete, like I was using an endless Beta test of the final product. I originally bought the Lumia 820 as it was the sibling to the flagship Lumia 920 and still had just as many flagship features at an affordable price. It was a future-proof, 4G/LTE-ready phone with built-in technologies such as NFC, an 8MP Carl Zeiss rear camera, and the ability to open and edit Microsoft Office documents (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) that I needed to do anyway as a university undergraduate.

Features and Review:

The new drop-down Windows Action Center brings the Windows Phone Operating System (OS) more in line with the notification drop-down menu’s of iOS and Android, while the overall feeling of the UI keeps that ‘metro’ look while seeming to be slicker and quicker at completing tasks and operations, even on a 2-year-old device which should be noticeably slower than current flagship models.

WP8.1 Action Center

What Microsoft and Nokia have done here is quite extensive – they’ve made newer phones eligible for Windows Phone 8.1 straight away and, once tested, given users of current WP8 devices the ‘okay’ to update to the new operating system. Whereas Apple, if I remember correctly, intentionally forget about older devices and render them useless without the most recent iOS update. At least, that’s what happened when I found I could no longer download any apps from the app store (even Apple defaults like iBooks) because I didn’t have iOS7 on my 4th Gen iPod Touch, meaning I also couldn’t access iTunes Radio or the supposedly superior Siri on a device which is forever locked to iOS6 (thanks Apple!).

Default Calendar app:

Calendar app

I never used the default calendar app in Windows Phone 8 as I found it too tedious to change from day-view to month-view every time I entered the app. However, with the update, the Microsoft team have finally rectified the problem and have also made some improvements – I find the week-view very useful and detailed agendas increasingly helpful, meaning I can now fully transfer all of my to-do’s over from my diary to my phone. Being organised has never been so great on Windows Phone.

Storage Sense with Windows Phone 8.1:

wp8.1 my start screen 3Another feature which has improved is the ability to transfer app downloads over from the internal storage to my micro-SD card, a utility which has featured in pretty much all Android OS’s I can think of (as far back as 2.3 Gingerbread, if I’m correct). This means there’s no worrying about the ever-growing problem of the ‘other’ storage items. Microsoft don’t seem to have resolved this problem, but at least now I can do more to create space on my phone rather than deleting almost every application, which makes life much more simple.

I’ve been able to download and install Microsoft’s own file management app called “Files”, meaning I can also transfer downloaded music, photos and videos from my phone to my micro-SD card without using my USB cable and computer. Battery life has also seen a major improvement, and I’m now able to keep track of what’s consuming all that power thanks to the helpful ‘Battery Saver’ system app.

Multimedia and Wallpapers:

wp8.1 my start screen 2Another thing which I found rather unhelpful was the separation of Music and Videos into two apps rather than one. While this improves the time between opening the app and playing your media, I felt I had to pin both apps to the Start screen. I normally like my Start screen to just be from the top to the bottom of my screen without any scrolling; sure, I could’ve enabled the three-column tiles feature, but on my (tiny) 4 inch screen, the live tiles seemed too small and almost impossible to read.

Meanwhile, the addition of the new scrolling wallpaper feature means I can look upon an everlasting pint of ale while executing everyday tasks. My theme colour is now used less often, which is easier on the eyes. All of the initial drawbacks of the Windows Phone 8.1 update did make me think about possibly downgrading back to WP8, but after a week’s usage I can happily confirm I’ll be sticking with WP8.1 for the foreseeable future; that is, until Microsoft release the newest update confirmed as the Lumia Denim firmware.

Cortana (Halo/USA version):

Cortana greeting

Probably the only thing I wished I had as default here in the UK was the ability to install Cortana during the WP8.1 and Lumia Cyan update, as I’ve found the Cortana PDA/app to be one of the best features of Windows Phone 8.1 (I ended up installing the USA version as I sadly discovered there was no UK option available after the major OS upgrade).

What does Cortana meanAs with everyone else, I found that I had to change BOTH the region and the language settings from United Kingdom to United States before I was even allowed to download the Cortana update. While this has enabled me to enjoy all the things my phone can do, when it comes to purchasing new music or apps, I’ve found I have to temporarily change the region setting back to UK to pay in my currency (GBP £), as my payment cards/Wallet options are also invalid outside the UK meaning I therefore have no method of payment!

But once the app or music track has downloaded, I switch the region back to USA and restart the phone – this is because Cortana isn’t available (even on Beta!) here in the UK, and we have still to wait for the British-sounding Cortana PDA. I have heard that it is possible to sign up for free as a Windows Phone developer (I already have!) meaning I would get access to the British version, but there’s just one problem…

will you marry meAfter a quick perusal on YouTube, I found that the British Cortana rather speaks like our Queen, and then it dawned upon me: wouldn’t I rather firt with Jen Taylor (the voice behind Halo’s ‘Cortana’), or would I rather flirt with Queen Elizabeth II? I suppose if the British PDA had sounded more like the Duchess of Cambridge, then I might more happily oblige, but where is the fanboy novelty in flirting with someone who sounds like my 80 year old grandmother?

Once the nerdy novelty had faded (of flirting with Cortana, asking her Halo-related questions, and then getting her to acknowledge my name as Kenners), which wasn’t long as I’ve noticed Cortana USA is still in Beta mode, I found the PDA had a humorous side to her, giving my phone the resemblance of any other human being; when I asked her if she liked Google, she replied ‘I like to imagine the “I’m feeling lucky” button in Clint Eastwood’s voice’, and when I asked her if she would marry me, she responded slightly sarcastically: “I know you know this, but I’m saying it anyway: I’m in a phone’.

Cortana settingsI have found that Cortana is only operational (or, awake) when both WiFi/Cellular Data and Location are turned on, but when she is awake, I didn’t feel like I was talking to a phone, as she can also sing songs when asked and has many a joke in her repertoire. I felt like I was conversing with one of my high-school crushes, which was absolutely fantastic!

Maybe the only thing which spoilt my rather ‘digital’ dating experience was having to repeat myself in some cases and holding my phone closer to my mouth when uttering words, but overall, and very remarkably, Cortana was able to recognise my British accent (having read that Cortana’s British language capabilities would come through in the official Cortana UK update).

Of course, there are certain things the American version of Cortana has difficulty with, most notably the difference between the NFL and English/European/World football (or “Soccer”, which shares no resemblance to the actual game of kicking a “ball” with your “foot”).

Cortana interests 2No worries though; the text entry bar in the Cortana app allows me to enter my favourite news items, meaning I can save ‘Ipswich Town Football Club’ as a news alert alongside ‘Formula 1′ and English pop music songstress ‘Pixie Lott’. This means every time I open the Cortana app or tap the physical Search button/key, there’s a series of news updates awaiting me if I scroll down from the welcoming Cortana greeting message.

The Good, The Bad, And The Helpful:

wp8.1 my start screenThere are a few things that have been taken away for good, like that massive, annoying, ambiguous ‘gap’ at the top of the screen between the Start Screen apps and the time and status bar that no amount of scrolling up or down could get rid of – this has now gone and I can finally have a ‘full’ Start screen. Meanwhile, there are a few things I wish Microsoft had kept, mainly in the department of social app integration; such as the ability to simultaneously post a status update to various social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In).

A feature that changed on my phone, and no doubt on other Windows Phones as well, was the button sequence in order to take a screenshot. Most of the time I used this feature to capture an image of the songs list at the end of the film, usually when I’d heard a music track but didn’t know what it was (and I’m not sure Shazam or Soundhound would’ve worked with characters talking in the foreground). Where I used to press the physical Start button and the Power button, I instead had to press the Volume Up button with the Power button. It’s a simple combination to remember, but one week on, I’m still doing it wrong…

people - groupIt also took me a while to get used to the new updates to the ‘People’ hub; where I was able to utilise the ‘Groups’ option in Windows Phone 8 to keep track of my best mates’ status updates across Facebook and Twitter whilst simultaneously filtering-down my main contacts list, I found that in order to see these individually-grouped status updates in Windows Phone 8.1, I first had to enable all contacts lists in the main People hub. This was slightly annoying as I then had over 500 names and unassigned email addresses floating around in my main Contacts list, meaning it was almost impossible to keep track of family members’ phone numbers without having to create a separate Group.

After a while, I found out that behind the ‘Phone/Calls’ live tile, lurked the Speed Dial menu (swiping left from the Call History view), which then helped with keeping those phone number-only contacts aside from the jumbled-up mash of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and email contacts (having linked five separate email accounts into my Linked Inbox app).

My Verdict on Windows Phone 8.1:

While I will admit that all these changes have overhauled the Windows Phone platform in a sort of ‘Pimp My Ride’ fashion, I have to be fair and say that Windows Phone still lags behind its main competitors in Apple’s iOS platform and Google’s Android OS. Nokia, under Microsoft’s belt, seem to be doing all they can to target the low-cost smartphone markets with phones like the Lumia 530, and I think by undercutting the rest of the market, Microsoft can at least rest assured that they’ll be back where they belong; fighting for custom against Apple and Google.

Android iOS Windows

Microsoft might be releasing a new desktop OS in the codenamed Windows 9 ‘Threshold’ to help regain a market loss after a terrible effort with Windows 8, but at least their mobile platform is gaining momentum. Windows Phone 8.1 shows what the Microsoft mobile experience should have been way back with the Windows Phone 7 OS and Windows Phone 8 OS – slick, simple, easy to use, and daringly fast with loads of features to keep your attention. WP8.1 may not be as slick or as developed as both Apple’s and Google’s efforts combined, but I think I can accept a few rough edges, because I know that whenever I go out with my mates, I’m not someone who melts into the crowd. I’m someone who stands out.

My Score: 8.1/10 ;)

What was that phrase going around a few years ago? “I am a PC?”

No. I am a Windows Phone…

Chris Kenworthy.

Buyer’s Guide: Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4″

Recently I was browsing for a tablet (a name which I still cannot get used to), to expand my computing capabilites outside of the house. The search started when I was trying to view a film on my phone when my battery died, forcing me to sit on the sofa with a portable but still uncomfortably awkward 15-inch laptop. I realise Tablet PC’s have been around for a while, but I guess I never really needed one, and the question that would always have to be answered was, “can a Tablet do anything that my mobile or laptop don’t already do?”

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Ultrabook

Invariably, I was looking for something that I though didn’t exist; a cheap and fairly small device with the capabilites of my laptop but at half the price (sub-£200 GBP). My budget immediately ruled-out the cheaper iPad mini (currently at £249 GBP) and also the cheapest Microsoft Surface/Nokia Lumia tablets (around £400), which would have been an ideal candidate to merge into my already-growing ecosystem of Windows devices (Windows 8.1 laptop, and Nokia Lumia 820 running Windows Phone 8). That left me with just a handful of options: an Android tablet, a tablet running a limited Android UI (such as Amazon’s Kindle/Fire range), or a cheaper tablet running on an older operating system.

Android iOS Windows

I’d set my sights on an Asus/Google Nexus 7 (2013 version), a tablet which I had been looking at for a while, even as far back as a year ago when my father was making a similar purchase. I liked the idea of a small 7″ screen, which was still an upgrade from the 4″ screen on my smartphone, and the idea of holding a device which was low in weight, as I would be holding the tablet for long periods of time to watch films and television shows. That meant battery life and pixel resolution were also key factors – I didn’t want to be viewing a Full HD film on a device that could only output at a standard definition of 1024 or 1280 pixels.

Nexus 2013

Although mobile data (3G or 4G/LTE) is a standard feature in mobiles and features in some tablet models, I wasn’t concerned with connectivity other than Wi Fi, as I would mostly be using the device in the comfort of my own home. The Nexus 7 2013 seemed a viable option, but poor ratings and reviews across multiple shopping websites and online forums discussing both Asus’ “appalling” customer service, and, in some cases, the screen appearing to form cracks for absolutely no reason whatsoever made me think twice about purchasing the Nexus 7 2013.

TabPro

As I started looking around for another tablet that could match the Nexus 7 on specifications, I discovered the Samsung Galaxy TabPro; my father had purchased a Galaxy Tab 3 8″ and had recommended Samsung tablet, although past experience with a cheap Samsung flip phone (E250) was tempting me otherwise. However, the technical specifications listed the 8.4″ version as having a pixel resolution of 2560 x 1600 (with a pixel density of 359 PPI), which was far more superior than the Nexus 7 2013 which has a resolution of 1920 x 1200 pixels and a pixel density of 323 pixels per inch.

Galaxy TabPRO 8.4

Another feature I found more appealing about the Galaxy TabPro was the ability to externally expand the storage; the Nexus had 16GB of internal storage and no card slot, whereas the Galaxy TabPro has 16GB of internal storage and also a microSD-card slot offering an extra 64GB of external storage if I needed it. As it happened, I had a spare 16GB microSD card, meaning I now have 32GB of storage; I mainly use the internal storage for apps, games and Google Play Books downloads,  and the external storage for music and videos. Plus, the Galaxy TabPro has got an 8MP rear camera, which is a nice feature although I’ve rarely used it alongside my mobile phone and Canon digital camera.

 

tabpro84cam

Some of you, no doubt, will still be asking why I so readily rejected the iPad mini – the main reasons being the price, the superior specifications of a cheaper Android tablet, and potentially having to use the incredibly slow and prone-to-crashing Windows version of iTunes to load music and video onto the device (I have had a bad experience with iTunes in the past, endlessly syncing music to my 4th-Gen iPod Touch 64GB). If it wasn’t for these reasons, I probably would have considered the iPad Mini.

ipad

Overall, I have had a very pleasant experience with my Galaxy TabPro. Battery life hasn’t been a concern (in contrast to various customer reviews on Amazon and a critical product review on CNET suggesting a poor battery life), and I’m able to surf the ‘net, Facebook and watch a couple of movies before the battery runs out of juice.

TabPro8.4

However, shopping for a tablet case has been rather difficult due to its unusual screen size at 8.4 inches, meaning most universal cases don’t actually fit the bill and I’ve had to resort to browsing on Amazon for a case. I wouldn’t recommend Samsung’s own range of cases; I’ve held a few of them in stores, and retailing at around £35, they seem rather flimsy for the price. I’d much rather have a more hard-wearing, independently-made case from one of the many offerings on Amazon, and I’m now moving towards a case that includes a detachable wireless keyboard, as typing this blog entry on my tablet has prompted many autocorrections that I care not to discuss at great length (though it did just replace “autocorrections” with “autocorrelation stock”).

Also, I’ve since gone back to the shops to look at a Nexus 7, and honestly, the 7 inch screen does look a bit too small…

-Chris Kenworthy.

Why I chose Nokia Lumia 820 (WP8) over iOS and Android

Nokia-Lumia-820

The main reason for my purchase of a Nokia Lumia 820 was because of my financial circumstances and budget. I’m now a graduate and still looking for a job, but when I was looking for a new phone last year, the most I could afford was around £26 per month due to my low income as a student, and thus my options were pretty limited. An Apple iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C, or even an iPhone 4S on £35 per month was too much.

iPhones Banner

I guess I could have settled for a mid-range phone such as a Blackberry Curve model or a Samsung Galaxy Ace, but I already had a fourth-gen iPod Touch and a perfectly able feature phone on Pay-As-You-Go, and really wanted an upgrade of the two for relatively low cost. I really liked the Blackberry Torch, a sort of slider phone with its combination of touch screen and physical Qwerty keyboard, hidden underneath the screen, but the keyboard buttons were way too small (and I’ve got paper-thin fingers).

BlackBerry_Torch

I had considered the LG Nexus 5, the official ‘Google/Android Phone’, but my past experience of Android wasn’t great; I’ve still got a HTC Wildfire, which I managed to wreck by not using the Nandroid function to back-up a copy of Android 2.3 Gingerbread, before I confidently installed CyanogenMod 10, a Custom-ROM flash build of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.

HTC-Wildfire-Rooted_1

The Samsung Galaxy Ace seemed like the ideal option, available on a cheap £7.50 per month contract, although when I gave the phone a test-drive in the store, it was just too slow and incapable of executing simple tasks quickly, like opening an app.

Samsung_GalaxyAce_black_multiview

While customization was something my iPod touch lacked on iOS6, even though I subsequently Jailbreaked it, I wanted a phone that was capable of making calls and sending texts and emails, and one that was different and fresh. That was when I stumbled upon the Windows Phone operating system.

new-ipod-touch-4

At the time (February 2013), I had seen three Windows Phones around my £26/month contract budget; the Nokia Lumia 800 (WP7), Nokia Lumia 820 (WP8), and the HTC 8X. I liked the tile-based Start Screen (similar to the Start Screen on Windows 8), and cosmetically I preferred the HTC 8X, but after some initial research on the Windows Phone platform, I had found that Nokia were developing apps themselves that were only being released for their Lumia phones.

Lumia-820-vs-HTC-8X


Having been impressed with the reliability of my feature phone,  a Nokia X2-00 with a 5MP camera (I still keep it as a spare), my attention was drawn straight to Nokia. Both the Lumia 800 and Lumia 820 were availabe for around £26/month, but unlike the Lumia 800 which had a smaller screen and ran on an outdated Windows Phone 7 OS, the Lumia 820 had a large screen, 8MP camera and ran on the latest Windows Phone 8 OS. I’d been used to using the 3.5 inch screen on my 4th-gen iTouch and, certainly, the move up to a 4.3 inch screen was a noticeably large one, but once I’d gotten used to it, I was able to utilise the phone and its features.

814277_3_original

Obviously, price wasn’t the only thing I had considered, and as I have already mentioned, my attentions were drawn to Nokia’s own apps developed for the WP8 platform. While WP8 lags somewhat behind iOS and Android in terms of features and number of apps on the Windows Store (compared with Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store), I’ve been impressed with Nokia’s Panorama app which has allowed me to capture many panoramic photos over the past year, something I could do (but not very well) on my basic Canon Powershot camera. Here’s a panoramic photo of Ipswich Waterfront that I captured using the Nokia Panorama app:

Waterfront Panorama 13-2-2013

Hopefully I’ve given you an insight into why I purchased a Windows Phone. While I will agree that there are those of you who don’t like Microsoft, I’m pleased with what they’ve achieved lately, given that the age of Desktop PC’s is drawing to a close and they’ve been forced to enter the mobile market to stay in competition. There have been problems along the way for my phone, such as the mysterious growth of ‘Other Storage’ on my 820’s internal storage, but a simple backup and reset has always solved these problems. Although Windows Phone 8.1 has already been released to developers, when it is ofiicially released this summer, I shall compose a review of Nokia’s Lumia Cyan and combined WP8.1 updates, and how the system has been improved.

Nokia Lumia 820 red & yellow

Chris Kenworthy.

Windows 8.1 – Worth the upgrade?

You’ve had your laptop or computer for years, it’s working perfectly and then something goes wrong. Do you spend money on getting it repaired, or do you fork out for a new computer? It really is a hard question to answer. If you get a new computer, it’s most likely going to come with Windows 8 or even Windows 8.1; it’s a smoother and faster platform than its predecessors, such as Windows 7, Vista and XP, but at its core you’re loosing a lot of the functionality that’s been carried through the Windows platform for the last twenty years.

Windows PC

Before purchasing my own new laptop, I’d already been playing around with Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 OS on my phone, which made things easier when making the switch. Okay, so my laptop doesn’t make phone calls, but I did learn how Microsoft is changing the way we use our computers. Windows 8 is a sort of clean-up operation, and a lot is at stake; the increasing popularity of smartphones that can handle most of the tasks you do on your computer pretty much spells the end for the home PC. Microsoft’s ambition is to reflect the simplicity of their mobile OS in Windows 8 and 8.1.

Win8 WP8

One major feature that seems non-existent, however, is the ability to play DVDs in Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. While I can still use the optical drive to play music CDs, I’ve found I cannot play DVDs without purchasing an app or downloading free playback software like VLC media player. While I agree that downloading and streaming movies is the future, and that it’s already happening right now, I don’t agree with Microsoft’s decision to no longer support DVD functionality. Alternatively, you can purchase or download Windows 8.1 Pro which gives you Windows Media Center and the ability to play DVDs, but if DVD playback by default is a big thing for you, maybe you ought to think twice before reaching for your wallet!

Windows 8.1

If you’ve been using XP, Vista or Windows 7, things will seem strange when turning on your new PC or laptop for the first time. As the system loads you’ll be shown a handy walkthrough video to get you started with Search, Charms, the Start Screen and how to close apps, but then it’s pretty much up to you to work out where you need to go to do what you’ve always done. The Start Screen itself is a reinvention of the classic Windows start menu, but personally I’ve hardly used it apart from accessing the Search feature, and I’ve continued to use all of my usual programs (Word, PowerPoint, Google Chrome) in desktop mode.

Apart from the confusing and rather long name, Windows 8.1 Update 1 also brings some new features to Windows 8.1. Although, when I say new, I really mean old features that seemed to be non-existent in Windows 8 after Microsoft’s design overhaul; such as the ability to click the ‘-‘ or ‘X’ in the upper right-hand corner of the screen to respectively minimize or close the program window. Microsoft brought these back after realising that not many users have touchscreen monitors and are therefore still using mouse and keyboard.

Windows 8.1 Start Button

Windows 8.1 Start Button

Microsoft has tried to keep up with the pressures of the new generation of computing, and I’m pleased to see that Microsoft are tackling the problem rather than trying to ignore it, but I can’t help but feel that Windows 8 was the wrong way to go. When I log on, I feel like I’m using a Beta testing app for Windows 9 or, at the very least, the next Windows OS. The Windows 8.1 update (for existing Windows 8 users) seems like a step in the right direction, but I still find myself wanting more…

Chris Kenworthy.

F1’s new V6 Turbo Engines – Too Quiet?

Gutierrez - Bahrain 2014

If you’re one of the people who think that the new season of F1 is boring and that the engines are too quiet, I hope you were pleasantly surprised by the non-stop action in the Bahrain GP, which included a whopping collision that sent the Sauber of Esteban Gutierrez flipping over and landing violently.

Since my last post (after the Australian GP), there has been much debate surrounding the sport, mainly that the cars are too slow and too quiet. (Hang on… too quiet?).

 

 

While I agree that the new powertrains (or, engines) sound a bit strange for an F1 car, I’m not so sure that their being ‘too quiet’ is such a bad thing. I accept the view that when you turn up to the event, having paid your ticket entry fees, you expect an ‘atmosphere’ from every race weekend including the engine noise, wheel-to-wheel racing, the infamous ‘turn one, lap one’ incident zone, pit-stop strategies, and lots of overtaking.

Damon Hill 1996 Williams

I’ve watched F1 since my childhood, and can only just remember Damon Hill winning the championship. Since the start of the 2004 Season, I have devoted my life to watching every single Grand Prix – that’s 10 years of devotion and passion for F1 motorsport.

Schumi - USA, 2004

I’ve seen Michael Schumacher crowned a seven-time world champion, and his battles with the fiery Spanish dragon of Fernando Alonso between 2004-2006.

During the same seasons, I watched the endless battles between Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams) and Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren).

But I’ll never forget when Lewis Hamilton raced onto the F1 calendar in 2007 and took the world by storm, almost being crowned a rookie champion, except for a retirement in the Chinese GP where he got stuck in the gravel trap on the pit-lane entrance.

I’ve also seen how the sport has changed and how the cars have developed. Between 2004-2005, I saw the end of the 3L V10 era, what I prefer to call the era of ‘ears bleeding, cars screaming’, and then the introduction of the 2.4L V8 engines in 2006.

I watched Lewis Hamilton drive to championship glory in 2008, falling off my seat and screaming loud at that last-corner overtake – after a disastrous start to the Brazilian GP where he lost transmission, Hamilton was able to regain his position, and as rain fell on the track in the closing stages of the race, all he needed to do was finish fifth to win the title.

As it happened, Toyota’s Timo Glock was on slick tyres in the wet, and even though Felipe Massa had crossed the line in first place (doing all he needed to win the title at his home Grand Prix), it was on the very last corner of the last lap where Glock lost control of his Toyota, allowing Hamilton to sweep up the inside and take fifth and the title.

I have seen how the spygate scandal between McLaren and Ferrari brought shame to the sport in 2008; as did Renault’s Nelson Piquet Jr and boss Flavio Briatore’s race-fixing that saw Piquet Jr deliberately crashing in order to aid team-mate Alonso’s win at the 2008 Singapore GP.

I even watched in anticipation as the shape of the cars changed, and the 2009 cars were so different from the previous era that many drivers and teams fell behind. It was then up to Brawn GP’s Jenson Button to grab the title while he could, and crikey did he do it in style.

Button BrawnGP 2009

When the organisers of the Australian GP threatened to sue F1 over the new V6 Turbo engines in F1 cars that didn’t sound like racing cars, I can only question Bernie Ecclestone when he and Ferrari F1 boss Luca di Montezemolo agreed that action must be taken to prevent the sport from declining in popularity and credibility.

As a devoted F1 fan, I am more than happy to accept the new FIA regulations and to see a new era of F1 racing take shape. In fact, I also welcome a change in the standings, where Sebastien Vettel and Red Bull Racing have been dominating F1 since late 2009 to 2013, but are now having problems with their new 2014 challenger and the new Renault V6 powertrain, especially during winter testing.

As the last race in Bahrain proved, Formula One will always have its dramas and excitement right from the starting grid to the chequered flag. Just because the engines are a bit quieter, that doesn’t mean the sport is less exciting to watch. But if you are one of those people who have had enough of the new powertrains and preserving the tyres and fuel instead of full-throttle action, you sound like you’d be more suited to watching Nascar.

Not that Nascar isn’t just as exciting, but being British, I prefer F1… :)

 Chris Kenworthy.

f1 2013

Ricciardo Disqualified after F1 Australian Grand Prix

After what was a stunning race day for the Australian at his home Grand Prix in sunny Melbourne, Daniel Ricciardo has been disqualified from his second-place podium finish due to the car’s fuel flow reading being “too high”. As a direct result of his exclusion from the race, McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button have been promoted to second- and third-place podium finishes respectively.

Ricciardo RED BULL

Ricciardo’s car was found to have been in violation of Technical Regulation 5.10.4 which specifically states that cars are limited to a fuel flow rate of 100kg/hour, and to measure this, only “one homologated FIA fuel flow sensor may be fitted to the car which must be placed wholly within the fuel tank”.

After receiving inconsistent readings from an indicator they’d used on Ricciardo’s car during Friday free practice sessions, the Red Bull Racing team replaced it with a second FIA sensor for qualifying on Saturday. However, neither the team nor the FIA were satisfied with the readings from the replacement sensor.

FIA fuel sensor

The team were instructed to change back to the original sensor, but Red Bull chose to rely upon their own fuel flow models, which were in violation of the FIA’s technical regulations (specifically rule 5.10.4).

During the race on Sunday, the team were warned that the fuel rate was still too high and were given the chance to lower the figures, but according to a report by one of the race stewards, the team chose not to make any changes.

Red Bull team and their 2014 challenger the RB-10

Red Bull Racing team and their 2014 challenger the RB-10

Red Bull Racing have not had a good weekend, despite things looking positive after the team’s numerous problems during pre-season winter testing at Jerez and Bahrain earlier this year. Ricciardo’s team mate and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel had to retire on lap six due to difficulties with the car’s engine.

The team have released a statement, as well as showing their intent to appeal the stewards’ decision, on their website: “Inconsistencies with the FIA fuel flow meter have been prevalent all weekend up and down the pit lane. The Team and Renault are confident the fuel supplied to the engine is in full compliance with the regulations”.

F1 Australia GP 2014 - Kobayashi

In other news, Williams driver Felipe Massa displayed anger towards Kamui Kobayashi after a lap-one turn-one incident caused by the Caterham driver, asking for Kobayashi to be given a race ban for his dangerous driving.

Massa Kobayashi Australia 2014

However, on closer inspection the FIA have decided not to punish Kamui for the incident, after it was discovered that the crash was caused by a significant rear-brake failure on the Kobayashi’s Caterham CT05 racer.

Chris K.

f1 2013

Formula 1 2014: Australian GP Review

Qualifying… Raikonnen spins and crashes, and Vettel is knocked out in Session 2 (Q2) by mere seconds, Australians going wild as the four-time world champion cannot believe his bad luck. Team mate and local hero Ricciardo qualifies second, in-between the two Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton on pole position, and Nico Rosberg in third position.

F1 Australia GP 2014 - Start

LIGHTS OUT! and we’re away here in Australia… a brilliant start to the Grand Prix for Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo and Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg, but his ‘Silver Arrow’ team mate Lewis Hamilton loses two places in a short space of track.

F1 Australia GP 2014 - Kobayashi

However, F1 veteran and Caterham driver Kamui Kobayashi (aka the ‘Overtaker’) didn’t have a good start, taking out Williams driver Felipe Massa in the first turn. Kobayashi soon tweeted his apologies to the F1 world:

A disappointment for Hamilton soon followed in lap three, when the Briton retired due to a cylinder problem in the power-train. Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel retired soon after in lap six due to power problems. Valteri Bottas kissed the wall a bit too much on lap ten, causing a left-rear puncture and subsequently the wheel rolling off. However, it was a good race for the Finn who finished in sixth place behind Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso; here’s a highlight from the Finn’s incredible start to the 2014 season:

Probably more impressive was F1 rookie Kevin Magnussen battling for position throughout, eventually coming home on the podium in his first race. Those who are comparing him to Hamilton, who debuted back in 2007, will be looking at Magnussen as the next rookie to watch closely…

F1 Australia GP 2014 - Nico Rosberg

Well, what a race… in the end, Rosberg crossed the finish line in 1st, claiming victory in the first race of the new season. Local hero Ricciardo finished second, much to the pleasure of the home fans who cheered in delight, and McLaren and F1 rookie Kevin Magnussen came home on the final spot of the podium in third place. For the full results list, follow this link!

F1 Australia 2014 - result

The next race is in Malaysia on March 30; will there be any drama like last year? After their crash in the 2010 Turkish GP where both drivers retired, the ‘Multi-21′ debacle (above & below) happened when Red Bull Racing told their driver and [then] three-time champion Sebastian Vettel not to overtake team mate Mark Webber in the 2013 Malaysian GP.

But Vettel chose to ignore his team’s wishes and took the risk, much to the annoyance of Webber and the team. Vettel initially told the press that he was racing for the win, but it was his immaturity and greediness that led Webber to reconsider his future in Formula 1.

Multi-21 - Vettel Webber Malaysia 2013

So, what a way to start the season… as the sun sets in Albert Park, Rosberg enjoys a fantastic start to the season, while Hamilton can only wish for a better race in Malaysia. The new season continues to surprise us…

Chris K.