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Monday, 13 June 2011

Canadian Grand Prix

Yesterday's thrilling and compelling Canadian Grand Prix has restored my enthusiasm for the sport, and helped Formula 1 grab the worldwide headlines for the right reasons, following the recent unseemly saga concerning the Bahrain race. The ebb and flow of competition and the skill and daring of the drivers were once again allowed to flourish, and reminded us anew why we find this sport so intoxicating.

Prior to the weekend, the weather forecasts appeared to promise an element of unpredictability, and the nature of the Montreal circuit invariably makes for thrills and spills. Add in the vagaries of KERS, DRS and tyre strategies, and we were promised drama aplenty, even if Vettel and Red Bull still looked like top dogs.

Much attention has been focussed on Lewis Hamilton's adventurous approach in the early portion of the race, and his exit from it. My own view is that this is merely a case of a racer wanting to race,but feeling slightly frustrated, and I think that the stewards on balance made the correct judgement concerning his collision with Jenson Button in particular. Hopefully in the races to come Lewis will be able to make up places without such drama. He may just need one win to restore his equilibrium. Reports that he heaped fulsome praise on Button after the race would seem to give the lie to some of the wilder rumours circulating about his McLaren future.

This will probably go down as Jenson Button's finest victory to date. Granted, some of the cards fell for him in respect of the weather, pit stops and so on, but he drove like a man possessed in the closing stages, retaining that characteristic calm and focus, capitalising just as others came to grief or encountered problems. His driving has on occasion been likened to that of Alain Prost, and there were echoes here of Estoril in 1987, when Prost forced Gerhard Berger into an error late in the race.

Honourable mentions should also go to Michael Schumacher, Di Resta and Kobayashi for their efforts at various stages of the weekend.

Let us hope that the rest of the F1 season is as entertaining and intriguing as the race in Montreal.

A word also about this weekends superb Le Mans 24 hours , which featured a monumental tussle between Audi and Peugeot, and had one of the closest finishes seen in the classic race for many years. Audi clinched a deserved victory, but my abiding memory will be of the escapes of two of their drivers from huge crashes. Massive credit must go to the designers and engineers, and also to the rule-makers, for helping to ensure that drivers can emerge from such accidents relatively unscathed.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

The Professionals

Well, after blogging on the question of Starsky and Hutch, I have been giving attention to what some regarded as their British equivalent, The Professionals.

It is in fact debatable whether The Professionals can be directly compared to Starsky and Hutch. The former also contained elements of both The Sweeney and James Bond!  The characters can be seen to have counterparts in the famous American series. For Starsky read Doyle; sometimes cynical, but idealistic and occasionally volatile. For Hutch read Bodie;the strong, silent type but intensely loyal to his partner.

The plot-lines often seemed like cartoonish, less plausible portrayals of contemporary themes, particularly Cold War espionage, urban guerillas and gangland activity. In fairness some of the topics covered swung a lamp over the future, suggesting the possibility of terrorism by lone fanatics, biological and chemical attacks and the increasing ferocity of drugs gangs.

It is difficult to escape the conclusion that some of the storylines were embellished for shock value, because the reality was a touch too mundane. The social issues (drugs, vice and corruption), however, were handled with some sensitivity and balance.

One amusing aspect of the programme was the way that it placed the British motor industry of the 1970s in a favourable light. No end of Ford Capris and sporty Escorts and Triumphs could be seen whizzing around in the hands of either CI5 themselves or the villains of the piece!

No mobile phones back then, of course!  The venerable public call box was much in evidence, and most of the other communication was done via humble walkie-talkies, although we did get the occasional glimpse of futuristic James-Bondesque communications technology.

Looking back at The Professionals, one criticism would be the unconvincing dialogue exchanged between Bodie and Doyle. It seemed contrived and lacking in idealism, hardly the sort of words to come from the mouths of an ex-policeman and a former solider, no matter how elite they had now become.

Based on my recent viewing of some episodes, Lewis Collins emerges with more kudos as an actor than I had previously accorded him. This belies his image as an "action hero".

One thing which the producers achieved was to convey the peculiarly sinister and claustrophobic atmosphere of the London of that time.  Leafy suburban streets, urban tower blocks and industrial wastelands provided a gritty backdrop to the action.