Verstappen and other quirks at F1’s Spa-Francorchamps

Where does one start in analyzing a race that felt like those season premieres that give you two episodes of your favorite show in one sitting? Belgian GP, with its two starts including one brought on by an epic (safe) crash that triggered a red flag, a safety car, and a 17-minute mid-race recess to repair a guardrail, was just that.

I’ll back-pat myself for calling that Alonso and Hamilton’s teams would take advantage of their back-of-grid starts, to place them on medium tyres for the start of the race. Track temperatures were 40 degrees celsius, afterall, and since they didn’t qualify in top ten at Saturday’s Q2, they could choose their starting tyres for Sunday’s race.

TyrePredictionsBelgianGP

So 2pm and the race starts — start 1 of 2, though we don’t know this by then. Don’t know what opening-lap strategy Vettel was pulling off in the starting seconds, but it somehow put his Ferrari teammate Kimi in Verstappen’s way early in the race, something I’ll rather not see happen at all because, well, Kimi is a nice guy. After Kubica, he was racing’s best poker face. And I don’t like to see him angry, but Verstappen seems to bring it out in him all the time. He was so angry during this race that the swear-filter was too slow to catch the stream of expletives he directed at li’l Max via team radio. I saw a commenter refer to Max as Vercrashen, by the way. I’m trying to be nice, but he needs to be schooled on F1 racing etiquette. However I don’t expect Red Bull to take the bull by the horns, unfortunately. Let’s hold that thought…

SAINZ BUILDZ BRITZ
In the 90s we had cable TV and thus it was that I got a catchy Heinz baked beans ad stuck in my head, one that ended with “Heinz Buildz Britz.” Sainz had one of the best race starts of his F1 career today, but his car began to disintegrate following a puncture… tyre, then rear wing, till he had to retire. Jenson Button had to retire too. So did Wehrlein of Manor Racing, a driver whose style I’ve started to warm up to. F1 is like a TV series in yet another way: gradual character development. You start the season just seeing the new drivers’ names and teams; and admiring their cars’ livery. Especially drivers of cars that usually don’t finish in the points. Then as the season progresses, you catch a rare interview, see the driver walk disappointedly to the pits after a crash or celebrate an uncharacteristic podium win, and suddenly there’s a personality beneath the helmet and livery. Wehrlein will still have some great races ahead of him despite today’s disappointment, I’m sure. It sucks that he took out Button’s McLaren too.

On the sixth lap, Magnussen’s Renault spun from 180mph to a smoky high-impact halt in a tyre barrier. Besides being a long circuit (4.35 miles; most of the season’s other circuits are a bit over two miles), Spa is also a hilly circuit, undulating in places and giving less-experienced drivers a run for their Petrobras fuel.  It was in one such spot, by Eau Rouge corner, that Kevin’s yellow R.S. 2016 rammed dramatically into a tyre barrier, sealing how the Renault team would be spending the half-fortnight before Monza GP: rebuilding his chassis. Formula 1 is such a beautiful sport in how safe it is today. Kevin immediately moved to signal that he was conscious, and then nimbly jumped out of his cockpit, as he was approached by race stewards coming to check the extent of the damage. I recently tried to watch clips of some road cycling championships and if Formula 1 is a thriller to watch these days, road cycling is a horror movie.

Guardrail repair followed on lap 10, with teams taking advantage of the 17-minute recess to get their cars in tip-top shape. Hamilton, whose mediums had served him so well in his ascent from back-of-grid to fifth place, now switched to softs as track temperatures cooled. Verstappen was having a bad day, having started on supersofts (teammate Ricciardo got the lucky softs in this split-choice tyre strategy), and having picked up some front-wing damage in that opening sandwich in which he was preventable top bread (what this time, Max, your brakes didn’t work? or you need a tutorial on how to time their use?). He’d be a cantankerous old man, but chap’s only nineteen. Either way, an angry Max on the track is to be avoided, for the whimsical damage he might do to your  rear wing or tyres or self esteem.

Am I player hatin’ on Verstappen too much? Ok, I’ll stop. See, I was screaming into my screen circa 2009 when Schumacher, on his comeback to F1, squeezed Rubens Barrichello into a wall before backing off. Damon Hill can tell you a few stories too, though their rivalry was before I became an F1-er. The teams and maybe even the FIA are saying nothing, possibly because rivalry is “good for the sport.” Rivalry, yes, but not reckless racing, which is what Verstappen is building his young brand to be known for.

All in all, with its two race starts, red flag, scenic setting, and the temperature at Spa throwing in an unknown variable that meant the guys in the back who were smart enough to see it got some little starting advantage, this was a beautiful race. Why do I love F1? Let me count the ways. Listed near the top will be the 2016 Belgian Grand Prix at the Circuit of Spa-Francorchamps.

Winners:
3rd place: Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes
2nd place: Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull Racing
1st place: Nico Rosberg of Mercedes

F1 Racing’s Driver of the Day: Lewis Hamilton

The music/maker connection

I’ve been having to ask myself a lot lately, what role music plays in my creative process. It used to be something that just happened, me listening to music, me dancing a lot, me karaokeing in front of my laptop at 3am in French or English or Yoruba till I wore my vocal cords out. Lately, I’ve been asked about what inspires my work. In 2011, it was the sea and the freedom its vastness imbued (freedom to travel, to stare into infinity, etc).

Now, I’m not really inspired by the sea anymore, at least not consciously. I’m always inspired by the feel I have for the texture and color and general properties of each piece of leather I bring in. So, those are tangible inspirations, where the relationship to the end result is easier for me to explain. But music. It’s there in the work. I don’t know how, but it’s there.

Sometimes I listen to music while I create, but most times it’s just fucking silence and the sound of cars and motorcycles outside the balcony. Most times the heavy music-listening happens outside my active doing hours. So it’s not a relationship as simple as the tempo/lyrics/attitude of music inspiring my creative process while I work. I listen to music off-hours like I eat off-hours, but I won’t really say eating fine cuisine or cooking inspires my work in any tangible way.

There is an attitude in music that I am becoming better and better at identifying and sussing out, thanks to spending time around the skinny kid that writes for the skinny and dances like humankind’s very existence depends on it. Like, I’ll listen to something and want to absorb its New York sass and nonchalant badassity, or another day it’s something from the west coast with a chilled beat that in some sick (read: cool) way reminds me of go-go, the (much-maligned at the time paint bucket-base percussion) sound of my adopted Washington DC hood. I remember my freshman roommate from Gary, Indiana and how we’d invite our two suite-mates to our party of two and dance till wee hours to no-chill sounds from the deep Midwest, like Cajmere’s house classic “It’s Time for Da Percolator,” that we’d groove to like it was jungle.  The songs we’d listen to were often big on repetition, e.g. Gary Indiana. It’s one of the most repetitive city-tribute songs you’ll ever hear, in the league of the Osbourne brothers’ Rocky Top Tennessee.

Sometimes I feel like I should know and like new music, but it’s the oldest music and the music from the weirdest corners of the youtube discovery hazemaze that stay with me the most. I don’t decry the death of music — I know that’s not true. Great music is being made everyday, and you just have to have more patience to find and hone in on styles you like. I like Lorde, I love when Rihanna collaborates with Drake, and Beyonce’s 7/11 is just so cool, I know I’ll never be that cool. Kendrick is relatable. In all the music I like, I see that the music video plays a big part too.

I was reading about Russian composer extraordinaire Lera Auerbach and I listened to some of her music and of course watched vids of her performing and she was like this tortured soul. I think that’s what stayed with me the most, not so much the music itself, but the idiosyncrasy of crazy fucking composer female slightly overweight overly shy in person and just badass at the piano. Well, then I looked at her art and it was tortured as well, in a more literal way. It was sick (not in the cool sense this time, just the kind of stuff that gets you sent to guidance counselling if you try it out in artistic self-expression class in high school).

It’s unusual for me to find a composer that is also somewhat-publicly a sculptor/painter, but getting the chance to see this embodied in one person made me think that perhaps what I am looking out for in music is a sound that embodies what I am communicating, or sadder still, what I want to communicate, through my design. Sadder because it would be cool if I was born with the New York urgent swag and Cali chillax that I desire to have run through my work, but I have to in a way extract it from the music I listen to. I’m sure I have Lagos cockiness and swag in there somewhere too (as Chimamanda Adichie says in her Lunch with the FT,,”we in Nigeria have an unearned and funny sense of superiority. Nigerians are the Americans of Africa…” and as much as I dislike that she put it that way, it has some truth to it), and the result of this mishmash is what you see in each biannual collection — me refining my thoughts and my being through music and a honing of leatherwork technique and skill.

 

We got the funk

I’m excited that it’s Friday. We’re about to go and watch a funk band (the guy loves funk :-)) and I’m happy to put away work and go and have a weekend. Or at least a Friday night. I’ve been working on a few things, including the FW2017 collection. Yes, time flies.

When I was in university, I used to count time in semesters. Now I count it in fashion seasons. Here is one of the most recent things I’ve been working on:

MinkuWosanBucketBag_Main WosanBucketBag_interiorDetail_b

It’s called the Wosan bag. One of the ideas I’ve been toying with for the new collection is the idea of love, and what we do for those we love. So perhaps we are excited to see them laugh, so we try to make jokes to make them laugh (palerin), or we nurse them to health when they’re ill (wosan) or we forgive them when they forget something important to us (dariji) or we sing to them or with them (korin), or support them when they’re rooting for their favourite football team (tilehin). It’s been a bit of a shift working with verbs instead of nouns for the names of the bags, but that’s just what I’m feeling at the moment.

Ok, so we saw the Hungarian GP on Sunday. I was quite unexcited to see the race, because something interesting had happened at qualifying the day before, but my <3 was like well, I think Hamilton will win the race, and he did! His fifth win at Hungaroring. And with this, he now leads the championship points table. German GP this Sunday before August break (pardon my error in the previous post, where I thought Hungaroring was the last race before the break).

Well it’s sweltering hot and funk is good for working up a sweat, so off we go. Are you liking the Wosan bag? Which colours of bags would you like to see more of this season? I personally can’t get enough of that pink…

Love,

Minku

Work, play, and dreaming of the weekend

I worked all of yesterday. Today, too. I am simultaneously working on four bags. You can see one I completed on Monday, here, and also below.

OkinBag_back2

The extra lovely weekend prepped me for such a busy week. On Sunday afternoon, we hung out in plazas watching castellers and drinking canned juice. Then we met up with friends for tacos. On Monday evening, we went to an outdoor cinema where we lay on the grass with maybe 800 other people and saw a movie we had both seen before, and both love. Tuesday came and I started prepping for work and then Wednesday came and I woke up early and started to work and then today too, though I let myself sleep in a bit longer.

I’m making progress, and it is all looking good. You can’t rush this work, though. For two of the current projects, I’m designing as I make, and you can’t rush design. It’s a series of decisions that need you to be well-fed and well-rested and just chill. So yeah, I’ve been having some Zen days of creating, but when it’s all done and mailed, I’ll also just have some Zen days of serious resting.

This heat is not helping things. I don’t know what it is called, but the air here has been stagnant since yesterday. As in, you open the balcony door, but no breeze. Please, summer, have some chill :-)

Speaking of chill, well on Saturday, we will go to a friend’s birthday party. I’m pretty excited — maybe just the thought of taking a break, seeing this friend again, meeting the new people that will be at the party, and exploring a neighborhood with them after tapas. It’s Formula 1 on Sunday :-D :-D :-D, Hungraroingaroing in Hungary. Ok, the circuit is actually called Hungaroring; still, it reminds me of Antananarivo, where I have to consciously learn how many times to repeat the middle syllables. After Sunday’s race, the drivers are going on… August break, he he. ‘August break’ is funny to me because it is the name of a poem we had to read in Junior Secondary 1 (like 7th grade), regarding the rainy season in Nigeria, which runs from April to October, with a break in August. When I start cheesing at my own jokes, it’s time for bed (just kidding, it’s something I always do). I hope you’ve been having a fulfilling week.

 

A race in the wet

Trust the Silverstone circuit to deliver a race in the wet. It wasn’t actively raining, so most drivers switched from wets to intermediate tyres early in the race, and as the track dried, to mediums. All the same, the wet track reminded me of one of my favourite quotes in the 2010 movie Senna: “Then his favourite thing happened. It began to rain.”

The most exciting thing about this race was the tussle between Nico Rosberg and Max Verstappen. And if you’d been following these two since their Ferrari days, Massa (now driving for Williams) and Alonso (now at McLaren Honda) were interesting to watch midfield as well.

As a driver who has had 15 race wins, 11 pole starts and who finished 2nd in the 2008 Drivers’ Championship, Massa is one of the really good drivers out there right now. The way he fended off Alonso’s overtake attempts during Sunday’s British GP only served to reinforce this idea.

Sunday was a day of back-to-back sports watching: F1, and then the Wimbledon men’s finals (congratulations Andy Murray and of course SERENA WILLIAMS :-D), and at night, the UEFA Euro Championship finals. What a great day.

Best part of the British GP: Hamilton’s crowdsurf at the end. You earned it, mate.

Summer notes

It’s almost mid-July already. This has just been the loveliest of summers, with everything taking on a calm warmth. I had been traveling a lot (this year so far: Lagos, London, NYC, Blacksburg, a quick Washington DC stop, Fontainebleau), and on the train the other day, my guy and I were talking about summer plans and how a staycation was looking like a pretty solid idea.

So here we are — last weekend, we took the train 45 minutes outside of Barcelona to an indie music festival. Well, I say indie; their headliners in 2015 and 2014 were Primal Scream and Lana del Rey respectively. It was in a forest, with forest lights and food trucks. We arrived in the afternoon and just hung out on some haystacks(!) and ate some wild blueberries — yeah, it was that kind of indie festival; just kidding, we brought the blueberries from a Barcelona supermarket chain — and tried food from the trucks: a chorizo hot-dog, some thai noodles… and then between performances much later, a kebab and a nutella + banana crepe.

At 9pm we left the festival grounds to see the football match between Germany and Italy in a bar, then returned to the festival at half-time, giving us a few minutes to search the merchandise stands unsuccessfully for a shirt to keep me warm and then to go and see Neil Hannon and the rest of the Divine Comedy band. Neil’s jokes between songs gave an even quirkier edge to an already unconventional set (chamber pop!). Kula Shaker, the next band, upped the festival mood further. Look up Tattva, it’s a 90s psychedelic rock hit that Crispian, the lead singer + guitarist, performs with even more gusto live than in the music video. Lindstrøm was magical. Dancing outdoors under the moonlight may be an overplayed cliche, but with his DJ set, Lindstrøm made it a beautiful reality that night and, I think, one of the big and cool memories of this summer.

By the time the next band was performing, I was starting to nod off (it was almost 3am by this time!) and after about 30 minutes of lending me his shoulder or lap (I can’t remember!) as a pillow, the guy said let’s go back to Barcelona, so we did.

Back in Barcelona, the sales are on and yesterday we went to get ourselves some sneakers, both from the men’s shoe section! So if you see a girl in city sneaks that look unmistakably androgynous, chances are it’s me :-) I quite often do this… hi mum! (my mum knows of this habit of mine and even though we enjoy shoe-shopping together and she’s got me some of the nicest heels and mary-janes I own, I still don’t hesitate to send her a picture of my latest finds in the men’s section when I can. I love her responses :-) :-)

Also my beautiful country America is in my thoughts, today and always. Love kills fear. I am thinking today of everyone who is out there protesting police brutality against the African American populace. My time in America was stress-free because of the courage of people like you, who fought to put in place rights that I have benefited from. Thank you.

Confetti tyres and detach-y front wings

If you wanted a clue about the unpredictability with which the 2016 Austrian GP was about to unfold, you needed to look no further than the array of tyres on which the different teams started their drivers. What would normally be an even split between, say, softs and supersofts, or intermediates and wets, was a colorful mix of softs, supersofts, and the newly-introduced ultrasofts in the Pirelli F1 range.

RACE DAY – The race started off decently enough, with no surprises (Rosberg quickly overtaking his way up to 4th place from 7th; the uncharacteristically front-of-grid Force India of Hulkenberg going down some places in the first few laps). So let’s fast forward to where all the excitement happened: Lap 71/71! It was like watching a football match where an equalizer and a winning goal happen in the 89th minute. I was already writing off the race, saying in my head that it would be another Mercedes 1-2, with a happy (very happy) Verstappen as third. Vettel, who had been in third place until about the 26th lap, had seen his right rear tyre ceremoniously explode and shear, leaving huge marbles and rubber debris scattered on the racetrack (and stuck under Rosberg’s chassis!); and his SF16-T immobilized until the safety car was deployed and the car towed away. He retains third place in the championship, so this DNF hopefully doesn’t affect his championship placement much.

What it did affect, however, was the tyre strategy confidence of the other teams. Their radios were suddenly abuzz, and those whose race plan had entailed seeing how far those ultrasofts could take them, were now second-guessing, in part to benefit from a deployed safety car. Whether it is the tyre manufacturer or the team’s strategy that is to blame, it is not very sexy to see the live and then replayed footage of your team’s car bouncing about the track, its tyre unfurling like a roll of confetti or a party whistle, its driver’s gloved hands conveying the frustrated futility of trying to steer a car on three wheels. Ferrari may have the most recognizable livery in F1, but after it happened to them, no other team wanted an encore with its car. So it was pitstop after pitstop, changing the race strategy of many drivers (including Hamilton; when he changed his tyres around lap 21, it was with the intent of having them last the whole race, knowing that his teammate would still lose time pitting. But then he had a tyre change again around lap 50). Hamilton’s pit stops, though. They were long and clumsy. I had thought that Nico’s would be long because the  Sky commentator had said he still had debris from Seb’s car stuck under his chassis. Yet it was art.

Well, the good thing that came out of Lewis’ late tyre change (to softs, against Nico’s faster-wearing yet better-grip supersofts, as we would see in much-replayed footage of their final-lap tussle, later), was that it emboldened him to take on Nico later. Luckily for him, the Red Bull Ring seems to have ample opportunities for overtaking. It’s also a short track (2.3mi), so if you miss this chance to overtake at Turn 2, say, well, in a minute or so (assuming ~200 miles per hour), the chance would present itself again.

Still, man, what a bold move. These two Mercedes drivers are not beyond taking each other out, as they showed in Barcelona. So it was clear that were Hamilton to make a move to turn that 1-2 around in his favor, the chance of a DNF-DNF would be real. But no one could have predicted a 1-4. Especially not in Hamilton’s favor.


Toto Wolff said something about team orders, but I think the best way to enforce driver behavior will be to work on the drivers’ own rational minds. There is such a split-second of time for decision making when overtaking, that it won’t help to have your team barking or even cajoling orders at you simultaneously. I want to watch a race where the drivers aren’t ruthless but are rational even if it will cost them a place or two. Overtaking is fair game, and is indeed the whole point of motorsports. Blocking the driver’s car from returning to the track after an unsuccessful overtake attempt, doesn’t seem to be.

In the end, Rosberg’s front wing was stuck under his car, leading him to slow down to a lucky fourth place (lucky because had there been two laps left, all the other cars would have overtaken his). It reminded me of Verstappen’s front wing, lost during Friday’s practice. Kyvat’s, too. Nine races into the season, the drivers all seem to understand the capabilities and limitations of their respective engines. That their front wings are delicately attached and their tyres rapidly expendable, however, it seems they are still wrapping their heads around.