Formula 1 and… Badminton?

Formula 1 and…. Badminton?

Sometimes things come together unexpectedly. Formula One and Badminton don’t seem to match, but today they will.

First, a simple link; both are sports of speed. Did you know that a badminton shuttle can reach over 330 km/h and accelerates much quicker than a F1 car?
The real match between the two sports however is about to happen now, on the badminton court. Red Bull organized an event before the Chinese Formula One with their Formula one heroes Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. They are not driving this time, but will take up the ‘birds’ and rackets. When the two star drivers enter the sports hall they have badminton champion and Olympic Medalist Wang Yihan on their side. She will teach the drivers the tricks of her game.

A few years ago Verstappen started my fire for Formula One again. Although it can still be a frustrating sports to watch, especially when there is little overtaking, F1 has become much more exciting now I have my favourite driver. I want Max to win, because he’s daring, fast, not afraid of what people think… and also simply because he is from Holland, like me.

Last year I already had a little chat with Max, but that was in a more natural surrounding: a karting ground. He was fast as a rocket there.
But on the badminton court speed doesn’t come from a throttle.
Wang Yihan starts the warm-up with the two drivers. Daniel wears funny socks and his trademark grin, he clearly enjoys the badminton and is doing very well. He is either experienced or a natural talent. Max wears ordinary socks, looks more serious and and needs more guidance by Yihan to get things right. How to hold the racket, how to smash.

It’s a big contrast with his race track performance, where he is brave and pushing forward. Good qualities if you also have patience and a good strategy. But the youngest F1 winner in racing history doesn’t seem to realize he has time. In milliseconds lap time, he’s there with the best drivers already. But count in minutes, in total race duration, there is still space for improvement.
A few days after this event he proves that again during the Chinese Grand Prix by doing too much too quickly. After a very impressive start Max makes a few mistakes in his rush, which cost him a good position in the race. Ricciardo keeps his calm and brilliantly walks, or better: drives, to a victory.

As the playful badminton event comes to an end I know that Max will certainly be world champion some day, but it won’t be at badminton.

When I have my own badminton racket bag signed by all three stars i think about how many great badminton talents China must have. And Holland now has the Formula 1 star. It’s now time we also find the Chinese Formula One hero, don’t you think?

 

Driving a Supercar at the Green Hell

Driving a Supercar at the Green Hell

Now that Audi invited me to drive a lap in a true Audi R8 on the Nürburgring, (that’s right, the “Grüne Hölle”!) I have a confession to make. I might be editor at sportauto but I do video, not the driving. Looking at my history of car ownership I might not be the right person to handle this R8 “challenge”. The fastest car I owned was a Peugeot 405 from 1994. If you look up “slow” In a dictionary, there is a picture of that car with it. I’m not sure of the top speed it had but i wasn’t brave enough to go near it anyway.

It’s a beautiful day at the Nürburgring and I’m thrilled to see the line up of brightly colored Audi R8 ready to hit the track. Excited I get into a yellow one. When it’s time to go, I get seriously confused. My old 405 had about 5 buttons in total but at least 4 didn’t do anything noticeable. The working button was on the radio, which is essential when driving slow. But this R8 had a scary amount of buttons, and most of them located on the steering wheel.

Pushing “start” seems to make sense and when I push it I get the expected result. Behind me I hear a gentle V10 grumble sound. The super nice electronic dashboard tells me to go into driving mode, which is a good suggestion. But it doesn’t say how. After shifting several handles and pushing more buttons the car starts moving. Backwards. Brake! I study and push more buttons and frown. A little throttle and suddenly I go forward, smooth as butter. A little dial on the steering wheel turns up volume of a 1920’s jazz band, so the radio works. It seems a perfect sound track for the Grüne Hölle… If you don’t speak German, it means green hell.

That hell doesn’t look scary at first. It’s a beautiful day and I enjoy the ride in this car that has at least 6 times the horsepower and over double the cylinders of my now demolished 405. With reasonable but safe speed I take a few corners. Then I see a long stretch down, continuing uphill. Behind it I suspect there is a corner but it’s invisible. It’s clear view, not too curvy, the right moment to push the throttle! And so I push it way down.

The engine roars, my passenger shouts. The R8 shoots ahead like a bullet, a sensation I never had before. Track stewerds wave flags, in the corner of my eye I see the camping people getting their BBQ’s ready for the upcoming 24 hours race. No time to watch as the end of the stretch is approaching fast. The faster we go, the narrower the track seems to be. I’m too scared to check the speedometer but don’t want to be a chicken and keep pushing the pedal down. The blind corner is now approaching alarmingly fast. This car doesn’t slow down at all uphill, it simply goes faster and faster. Race fans have written things on the tarmac but with this speed it’s all a blur. I’m now running out of road that I can actually see. I know the invisible corner is somewhere behind there and I very quickly need to brake. Brake hard. My passenger shouts again.

A happy grin on my face. A more wry grin on my passenger’s face.
It feels good that I didn’t lose control with my perfect driving capabilities! Or was it the million of electronic driver aids and the four-wheel drive this car has. Or the alarm bell in my head that told me not to overdo it..

The Audi R8 is a really wonderful car to drive. I never thought I’d enjoy it so much. And it’s super easy too (once you found the ‘drive’ setting on the gear lever.). Today the green hell was a wonderful green play garden for me. Perfect weather, and a perfect car. The Audi is born in Germany and clearly feels much at home here. And it certainly made me feel welcome too.

 

Shooting an Aston Martin, and a dog!

Shooting an Aston Martin, and a dog!

Filming cars, I’m used to that. But this morning I’m a bit nervous as we’re dealing with two “Legends” at one day. A legendary brand and a legendary challenge.

The legendary brand is known for their long heritage. When you think England, a drive through the fresh green fields, a gentle but pleasing, non-aggressive noise from the engine, swinging sixties, a tweed hat and, well, James Bond, you think of Aston Martin.

This morning no Bond car however. I would have loved to shoot the classic DB5 used in Goldfinger, but the DB11 V12 is extremely pleasing to the eye as well. When it arrives at the filming location, appearing from around the corner, I’m certainly not the only one turning my head. At this hour the street is quiet but the few passers-by all admire our light-blue Aston Martin.
In any other setting you would probably call its color baby-blue, but it looks stunning on the Aston and certainly doesn’t give it a kiddy look. On the contrary. I get the feeling the body lines are nicely enhanced by the color, it is different but doesn’t get ‘ordinary’. Eye-catching in a subtle way. The interior is stunning as well. Every stitch between the cream-colored and darker blue leather parts is impeccable.

And the car matches extremely well with Charles, our second very British legend of today.

Charles, our Beagle.

Charles, our Beagle.

Charles is a full-blooded Beagle, who arrives by taxi accompanied by his Boss, who needs to leave for work straight away. That leaves us with a crew of just five people and a dog to tame.
The legend of shooting with animals is that they are very difficult to film. Prepare for endless re-takes, triple the planned shooting time, have plenty pet food available, and DON’T excite the dog. But of course it’s exciting. To us, but even more to a dog, this is all very exciting. Please… Charles…, be nice to us.

We’ve prepared everything. A quiet and nice location with a crossing. A completely metal-free leash for Charles so it can’t scratch our precious Aston Martin. The weather is also splendid.

Charles loves to jump. He’s the relaxed kind of dog in ordinary life but it’s early in the day and there are so many new smells to sniff! Let’s jump and sniff the car, let’s check the drivers smell! I hold my breath for the most important and fun shot of the video, where Charles is being “walked” by the Aston Martin. Audience is kept at distance, we can only block the traffic for a minute or two. The Aston Martin gently roars, I press “Record” and shout “Go!”.
With natural British grace Charles performs perfectly. We do three takes just to be on the safe side. The pace of the second is best and ends up in the fun New Year video.

The only regret about this British dog-car Legend Shoot is that the Aston Martin doesn’t go faster than a staggering 4 km/h. For this video, it’s all that we need. Although it performs well, this is obviously not what the Aston Martin is built for. We’re only pushing limits in dog control, while it should have been the Aston Martin.

In just over an hour the shoot is finished. After the ‘wrap’ we return Charles home and finally let him sprint at his own top speed. But not aside our pretty Aston Martin, but next to a Mobike.

The storyboard