Just say no to more street circuits

I am always bemused when an article about F1 that complains about the lack of action in modern races goes on to suggest more city street circuits as the solution.

Now there are some advantages city street circuits.

1 – They’re easier to get to for spectators. By their very nature, racing circuits need lots of space, and it’s easier to get that in the middle of nowhere. Middle of nowhere never has good transport links. (It’s not much fun for the locals either. I have two friends from near Silverstone and they both loathe having the Grand Prix on their doorstep.) Street circuits are in the middle of cities or near them. Cities have much better transport links.

2 – Things do happen in street races. If the drivers make a mistake, there’s a good chance their race ends in a barrier. If that happens, there will be a safety car, and with a lot of the present drivers, you can’t trust them not to mess that up, or the start after it, be the car virtual or Mercedes-AMG GT3. But that’s a demolition derby, not racing.

And that’s the problem. Street circuits don’t offer much opportunity for racing. There’s not enough space for overtaking; at best, you can line up behind someone and press the DRS zoom button along the start-finish straight to get past them. With the strength of the top cars, if that happens, there’s no way, even with brilliant defensive driving, that anyone can stop that overtake (legally).

The drivers know that, and they also know that overtaking at other points is risky. So I’m not going to blame them for waiting for the DRS zones and then pressing the go-faster button.

So you get a race that’s basically processional, with positioning reflecting qualifying, unless someone in one of the top 3 teams had a nightmare, in which case we have to wait up to 20 laps for them to resume their normal position by pressing the button in the DRS zones. The only time it’s not like that is if there is some shunt, but even then there’s little overtaking, just cars being unable to continue.

There’s only two ways to get more overtaking:

1 – make the cars smaller, which can’t be done without major rule changes. The size of the cars is dictated by the size of the engines, the ERS system and the safety features associated with them. That leaves option 2.

2 – use circuits wide enough to allow more overtaking. And that’s something that street circuits just don’t offer. They can’t get any wider.

Using more street circuits doesn’t solve the problem of a lack of racing due to a lack of overtaking opportunities. It also doesn’t really solve the problem of boring races. In most races on street circuits, for most of the laps, nothing happens. When there’s an incident, there’s a flurry of panic but it settles down again very quickly. It’s a solution that doesn’t solve the problem.

Just say no to more street circuits.

My top 10 films of 2019 explained

The reasoning behind my top 10 films of the year.

There was only one real stinker in the films I saw in 2019; Ad Astra, which was appalling.

I continue to use these 4 criteria for this round up:

1 – did the film do what it set out to do?
2 – did it use its resources to its best ability? A £250,000 film is not going to have as good explosions as a £25,000,000 film, or it shouldn’t, and if it does, there’s something wrong with the £25,000,000 film. Basically, it’s a technical merit score.
3 – Intellectual satisfaction – does the film’s plot pull some really stupid move at the last moment? Does the plot rely on characters being more stupid than they are?
4 – Does this work as a whole? Did it work for me? I am aware that this is the most subjective of subjective criteria!

Ad Astra failed all 4 of these.

I’d say 8 and above of my top 10 pass one or more of these criteria.

My top 10 films of 2019 are:

1 – Blinded by the Light – It’s not perfect, it’s bit obvious, and heavy-handed in parts. But it’s made with love and it perfectly captures *that* feeling of being alone in the world and suddenly, there’s that band (or that singer) who is the only person who understands you.

2 – How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World – I liked the art work, and the way they told the story they aimed to. I love Toothless in all his ridiculousness, and it also gets points for F. Murray Abraham’s villain, who was excellent.

3 – John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum – L thought I’d love it, all well-choreographed violence surrounded by baroque nonsense and a delightfully morally ambiguous turn from Ian McShane. And I did. I am a woman of simple tastes.

4 – The Missing Link – I like Laika films. This just didn’t quite work for me. Not quite sure why. I did love the Elder of the Yetis.

5 – Captain Marvel – Another one that didn’t quite work for me. Probably for the same reason that Captain America didn’t work for me. Excellent soundtrack mind you.

6 – Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw – In what’s getting to be a theme, this didn’t quite work for me. And while the stunt crew and the actors brought it, the continuity department and fact-checking teams really didn’t.

7 – Gemini Man – While this did work for me, I am more than aware that it wasn’t as good as the three films above it. I could have done without most of the technical tricks it used (except *that* one. *That* one was very good.) but there is a solid and interesting film somewhere under the top layer of too much SFX.

8 – Avengers: Endgame – This is the one where I am willing to accept that I am being mean when I rank it this low. Because the technical parts of this were excellent, and I cried when they wanted me to. I also respect that they had a story they wanted to tell and told that story. I like what they did with two of the main 6 Avengers, and I can live with what they did with another 2. But with one of Avenger, I have the same problem with the way they handle him as always, although this time they at least gave him a few scenes where he wasn’t impossible (the problem is, as always, the disconnect between what they want me to feel about the character and what I do feel). But for the remaining Avenger, I hated what they did with him. I think it could have been done, and done well, even if it went against his character arc in his own 3 films, but they also chose to make him a joke, and I don’t like that when he’s my favourite Avenger.

9 – Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – Again, it didn’t work for me (set design excepted, that worked) but it’s less well done than the other films that didn’t work for me. I’m not sure what story they were trying to tell. It’s probably a bad sign that the bits of the film I enjoyed all featured bad guys.

10 – X-Men: Dark Phoenix – I think this one might actually have been bad, but it was better than the remaining two films I saw in the cinema last year. It seemed like they threw in lots of characters and then gave them nothing to do. It was a lot of set pieces barely strung together. Worst of all, the character they handled the worst was Jean, which given that it was supposed to be *the* Phoenix film is a very bad thing indeed.

Fuller reviews of those 10 films and the others I saw in 2019 forthcoming, only I am terribly behind.