Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

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European GrandPrix – What to expect?

In Opinion on June 22, 2011 by shsmani Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 

It has been a week since the Canadian Grand prix, which was one the most memorable races in F1 history. There is already a huge frenzy around the upcoming European Grand prix in Valencia. The foremost question in mind is what to expect? Well, Formula One this year has been anything but predictable and Valencia is going be no different. With ‘Fog’ as the forecast for the entire race weekend, it is going to be interesting to watch how the race pans out for Formula One cars do not have headlights and neither is the track prepared for lighting unlike Singapore.

After the race weekends of Monaco and Canada, one would like to believe that Mclaren, Ferrari and Mercedes probably have it in them to take the race to the red bulls. However, we have to remember if we move ahead of the last 2 races, the only other race a Red Bull has not won is the Chinese Grand Prix. That was also because of Hamilton had an extra set of ‘new’ options to switch to.

At the outset, I think it is clear we can rule out Ferrari and Mercedes from the equation because they have not been consistent enough. Michael Schumacher showed some of his class, but I still think Mercedes is still not at the top of its game. Ferrari have been on and off the pace and at Valencia they will have to bring all the aerodynamic package that they can put their hands on. With Fernando piloting the car, one cannot write them off, but it appears less probable now.

That said, the only strong contender to the Bulls seem to the Mclarens of Hamilton and Button. While Hamilton will be under a lot of pressure to finish the race, leave alone winning it will be interesting to watch his strategy. In the past, he has delivered when it mattered the most. The kind of talent he is and with the car that is only next to the Red Bull, he stand a very good chance to topple the Bulls. It is interesting to note that Hamilton finished just 0.6 seconds behind Vettel in the race.

The other McLaren of Jenson Button has been amazing the last two races, thanks to his totally different strategy of more tyre changes and faster lap times. It is interesting to note that, even though he has been adopting this strategy from the second race, he was successful only in Monaco and Canada, where there were a record number of Safety cars. Assuming, there are no safety cars, like we had in the first few races, his strategy might lead to being lapped by the race leader. Even in the Spanish Grand Prix, the leading pack was lapping Fernando Alonso who finished fifth. Such is the pace generated by the bulls.

While it appears that McLaren have closed in on the gap, the last 3 races were clearly not favorable to the red bulls, both in terms of the incidents in the race as well the circuit layout. Valencia is a known Red Bull strong hold and even this year, they seem to be ahead on the aerodynamic package. It will be a acid test for McLarens if they really have it in them to give Red Bull a run for their money, or if it is going to be game Red Bull.

My bet would be on Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel. Whom would you lay your bets on? Do drop your thoughts in the comments below.

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Fuel prices in India – Demystified!

In Opinion on May 17, 2011 by shsmani Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Petrol costs more than what Aviation fuel costs, thereby putting it right up there in the most valuable commodities. If this keeps going up like this, the so called “Middle Class” families will soon be families below the poverty line. Agreed that the price of oil is rising at the international market, however still why is this disparity between the prices of Petrol and Diesel and more so between and India and other non Oil producing nations?

Reports suggests that the actual cost of importing, refining and distributing petrol works out to approx Rs.36 per litre. If that is the case where is the remaining cost coming from. Are they profits? no… they are excise duties and levies imposed by the government. These work out to about Rs.30 per litre of petrol. In contrast, while Diesel costs a little higher in the international market, it is sold cheaper in India, courtesy lesser levies and

petrol-price-hike

taxes. It is suggested that the levies on Diesel is about Rs.10-Rs.15 per litre.

Why Diesel is getting this Partiality? Some people say it is because of the fact that Diesel is used in farm lands and that is a vote garnering measure. Also, that Petrol is the rich people’s fuel. While all of this was true in the 80’s and 90’s things have changed dramatically at the turn of the millennium. Diesel guzzling SUV’s are the rich men’s favourites and two wheelers and compact cars running petrol is the Middle class families friend. Even official data supports this fact by reporting that Diesel consumed in the country is 5 times more than Petrol. So a simple Rs.2 increase in diesel in enough to negate a Rs.10 decrease in Petrol. It is time the policy makers get realistic and give petrol its due.

Another funny thing the government does with fuel prices is that, it levies a custom duty on crude oil and then subsidizes the prices of refined products like LPG, diesel and kerosene. Why levy a custom duty in the first from the oil companies and then follow it with a subsidy? It only leads to financial pressure on the oil companies who have to first pay the duty and wait for the subsidy. Collecting money from the government is monumental task, and for the period in-between unwanted interest rates are paid, there by affecting the bottom lines of the already sunk oil companies. After all, oil companies are not privately held, so who is actually losing the money? I think the answer is very clear to every taxpayer in the country.

So what can the government do? The simplest of free crude oil imports from duties and the retail sales of petrol and diesel from all forms of taxes and levies. After all, who is the government fooling by adding a custom duty to show income to the government and then giving out a subsidy and billing it as an expense.

Or Alternatively, they could sell ads for every liter of petrol so that at the petrol pump, so that we get to see ads like “this liter of petrol brought to you by blah blah blah” – zoo zoo can show its super power by offering free petrol in its super weeks..and Abhishek Bachchan can suggest using aviation fuel instead of regular gasoline and claim ‘what an idea sir ji’!!!

Do share your thoughts in the comments below.

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TN Election 2011 – Anti Incumbency or Vote against Corruption???

In Opinion on May 13, 2011 by shsmani Tagged: , , , , , , , , , ,

 

With the verdict out, the clear question on every one’s mind is, have people voted against corruption or is it just an anti incumbency factor with no other choice than to fall back to the other major party in the state as it has been happening since inception of Tamil Nadu as a State with the exception of 1991, which is largely attributed to the shock assassination of the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

The fact that Tamil Nadu has seen only 4 full time Chief Ministers ever since it became Tamil Nadu state is a testimony to the strong hold, the regional parties in DMK and ADMK have over the political affairs in the state. Those four being Annadurai, MGR, Karunanidhi and Jayalalitha. We have had intermittent chief TN Elections 2011

Ministers in Janaki Ramachandran and Nedunchezian who lasted only a few weeks both of them were acting Chief Ministers. The only other chief Minister who was in office for about 6 months is my O.Pannerselvam, who was widely regarded as the dummy to AIADMK supremo Jayalalitha.

The fact that Tamil Nadu has seen only 4 full time Chief Ministers ever since it became Tamil Nadu state is a testimony to the strong hold, the regional parties in DMK and ADMK have over the political affairs in the state. Those four being Annadurai, MGR, Karunanidhi and Jayalalitha. We have had intermittent chief Ministers in Janaki Ramachandran and Nedunchezian who lasted only a few weeks both of them were acting Chief Ministers. The only other chief Minister who was in office for about 6 months is my O.Pannerselvam, who was widely regarded as the dummy to AIADMK supremo Jayalalitha.

Looking back at the pattern of how the parties have been in power clearly indicates that it has been alternating every 5 years with the only exception being MGR’s 10 year term between 1977 and 1987 which was also came to end because of his death. Jayalalitha being in power 3 times in 1991, 2001 and now in 2011. Karunanidhi has been the Chief Minister maximum number of times at 5. Interestingly, only 3 out of his 5 terms have been full 5 year terms and even in that, one of his full three terms came to a close because of imposing President’s rule on account of corruption charges against Karuna’s government. On the Contrary Jayalalitha has enjoyed 2 out of 2 full 5 year terms so far.

Talking about Jayalalitha’s 2 terms, they weren’t bed of roses either. She began her tenure in 2001 with the controversial arrest of DMK chief Karunanidhi, which was basically a tit for tat for her arrests during his previous tenure. It was further marred by her actions against Kanchi seer and then the State government employees who went on strike.  Not to forget the O Pannerselvam episode because of her court cases. Her earlier tenure between 1991 and 1996 was dominated by the Sasikala episode and the grand marriage of his adopted son and the resultant power cuts due to the extravagance of the marriage, not to mention the various scams and court cases. 

While DMK’s government have been marred by corruption charges and law disorder across the state, ADMK’s government though excelled on anti-corruption and very good law and order situation was marred by excesses not only to politically affiliated people but also common people. Each of her actions affected the sentiments of various sections of the public, which was clearly visible in the 14th Lok Sabha elections where ADMK did not get even a single seat in the Parliament.

It is very clear that the People of Tamil Nadu deliver justice through the voting system every term. They are angered by DMK’s corrupt government or the excesses of ADMK government and vote for the other party. There is a slight tilt in the trend in favor of ADMK which tends to suggest that people are more angered by DMK’s corrupt practices and the growth of DMK chief’s family, which by the way is an extended family spread across cities and towns and it is interesting that it is considered legal, which in itself is a separate discussion entirely. All 2 terms when AIADMK were sent out of power indicates this.

In 1991, there were approximately, 11 million voters and in 1996 when AIADMK were voted out of power, there were only approximately 6 million voters. It was widely reported that the missing 5 million names in the electoral roles were Pro ADMK voters. In 2006, in spite of ADMK’s excesses in the first 3 years of its term, its reversal of policies and good governance in the 2005 and 2006 certainly helped them gain some lost ground. While the expectation was that DMK will sweep the elections, however ADMK managed to win 61 seats, while MDMK not only won a few seats but also, divided the anti DMK vote between ADMK and DMDK which indirectly led to DMK’s victory.

So clearly, DMK were not the favorites even when they came to power in 2006, so it does not come as a surprise this time, ADMK has made a clean sweep in the elections. This added to the fact that DMK’s atrocities this time have exceeded all borders. Be it Karuna’s favors for his family both at the State and at central level, or be it their dominance in most of the industries in the state including the movie industry or the much publicized 2G scam. While anti-incumbency has been the leading reason for regime changes every term, this time people have expressed their minds very clearly by making it a clear win for ADMK. This shows the growing anger of the atrocities committed by the DMK led front in the state.

People of Tamil Nadu have a very good track record of display of intent through the electoral process. Unfortunately, there are not many options available. With Central parties like Congress and BJP never a force to reckon with, people are left to choose from the better of the two. With ADMK coming into power this term, one can only hope that they capitalize on their track record of good governance and go on to give a good 5 years to the People of Tamil Nadu. If anybody, people of Tamil Nadu certainly deserve a good government.

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This is what I am talking about.. Superb Race

In Opinion on May 13, 2011 by shsmani Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

“This is what I am talking about” seem to Seb’s favourite quotes. These words hold true not only for Sebastian Vettel or Red Bull but for Formula One sport as a whole. What a race it was at Istanbul, overtakings, position changes, still no huge accidents. And the other three races in Australia, Malaysia and Shangai were no less in terms of excitement and action.

With about 1/5th of the races for the season behind us, there is no way of predicting the champion of this season. Sebastian Vettel appears to be a strong contender, but last years championship is still fresh in our memories where in Seb came from behind to win the championship while he had never led the points all along in the season. This season, McLaren seem to be very competitive though they missed out in Istanbul because of messy pit stops.

Talking about Ferrari, it is clear they are lacking Genuine pace, both in terms of Engine power and aero dynamic package, but Alonso chauffeuring one of the Red Horses, they are far away from being written off not to forget Ferrari’s technical strength in bouncing back mid season.

Mercedes GP with Rosberg and the Schumacher is a bit of enigma, they seem to be on and off the pace and are lacking consistency. My doubts are that Mercedes lacks the genuine pace and are just carrying out a marketing Gimmick by running lower fuel levels in practice and also in races to get more TV exposure. Look at the standings, they are behind Renault. I think their true pace was at display at the second race in Malaysia, everything else appears to be far from their real pace. The fact that teams lose out in millions in sponsorship for every position they lose seem to support this theory. But it is surprising that Mercedes is adopting this strategy because during the season the truth is likely to come out, maybe they believe they can some how have a miracle with 7 time champion in their team.

Renault with the Lotus branding has been going from strength to strength this year. With the absence of Kubica with a tragic accident they started off the season with uncertainty, however Vitaly Petrov has proved that he has it in him to lead from the front. Renault is a team to watch out for this year.

Force India doesnt seem to be in the reckoning at all, from being a mid fielder to giving Renault a run for their money last season, this year they are at the back of the pack with the fear of losing out to teams like Toro Rosso and Sauber. Not sure what seems to be the problem but they just don’t seem to be getting the setup right. They can depend on tracks like Belgium to always give them an edge, they have to develop their machines to suit the other tracks as well.

Williams have nothing to write home about with the worst starts to a season in a long time. HRT brings up the end of the pack with Indian Narain Karthikeyan ‘Driving’ the car around the track rather than racing…

The biggest difference to this year has been the tyres. Pirelli has done what it was supposed to do which doesnt come as a surprise because its purpose this year was to make sub standard tyres which degrades much faster. This is a funny parody because F1, which is considered the pinnacle of Motor sports and one that strives towards technical advancement and excellence has opted to take a move like this to make it a better sporting spectacle. Agreed, it has delivered the results, increased and renewed interest and excitement on and off the track, but I would think F1 as a sport has taken a step backward rather than forward with the tyre strategy. No wonder Bridgestone wanted to exit the sport as it would be detrimental to their company. On the other hand, for Pirelli, it doesnt matter as they are in their comfort zone 🙂

There a number of other measures that F1 could have taken to increase the competitiveness in the race, like multiple tyre vendors which puts the teams on different strategy and the last time we had this with Bridgestone and Michelin, it was certainly a great season in terms of competition. Another way is to tweak the qualifying format, very simply they could reverse the order in which the competitors start. The winner of the first race starts last and the last position starts first. Some fans would consider this extreme, in which case we can divide the track position into 3 segments 1-8, 9-16, 17-24 based on their championship positions and apply this order within the segments.

The other star of this season has been the DRS – Drag Reduction System. This has not only increased overtaking opportunities in the races, but also reduced the accidents. This has been possible because with the Drag Reduction System activated at the car trying to overtake, the car being overtaken is no match in terms of pace. This has been a major factor because before the straights come to an end the the car has moved over completely from behind to the front of the other car, there by reducing chances of contact between the two cars.

So far this season, while Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull are pulling ahead of the pack, the heroes have been the DRS and the Degrading tyres from Pirelli. This season will no doubt be one of the most interesting F1 season in recent times. I wont be surprised to see a two way or  three way tie going into the final race or as a result of the final race itself.

F1 Fans.. This is one season you would not want to miss!!!