• Signs of Confusion?

    The British have always been great travellers with some of the world’s most famous explorers hailing from our shores: Sir Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh and Captain James Cook to name but a few who faced incredible dangers in uncharted territories with constant threats from disaster, disease, wild animals and hostile locals. It seems that Brits have been successful in reaching every corner of the globe (assuming that globes actually have corners!) but there is one peril that these heroic globetrotters did not have to face but one that lies in wait for any unwary modern-day British traveller brave enough to venture from these sheltered isles. That danger arises from the apparent inability of the British to understand other countries’ road signs.

    Of course any traveller needs to understand a little of the local lingo even if such knowledge is limited to STOP, LEFT and RIGHT but it seems that most confusion arises with the signs containing pictures or symbols. Although there have been moves towards standardisation of road signs for many years (a protocol to which the UK did not sign-up), there remains much national diversity and there are even some signs which have different meanings in different countries. This failure to understand, and consequently not to follow, the instructions given by these signs has been cited as one of main causes of accidents abroad and this fact has been recognised by overseas car-hire companies who are now imposing additional insurance requirements on British drivers who they regard as being a bad risk. This may slightly dent the pride of our usually well-respected motorists but insurance companies report that the countries from which the most accident claims originate are: Spain, France, Italy, Portugal and Australia. The latter, being an English speaking country, may be surprising and many visitors from the UK expect driving here to be just like at home, with the possible exception of a few signs showing Skippy bouncing across the road, and are not prepared for some of the unusual road signs. The Australian sign for “The Road Ahead Will Change” is a classic example of a sign where the image seems to bear no resemblance to the message it is purporting to convey. It seems that you really need to think Australian to fully understand the logic. Some of the Icelandic signs are also highly symbolic rather than pictorial so need to be carefully studied.

    Both in the UK and overseas, there are also signs which are unlikely to have any relevance to the average motorist such as the prohibition of vehicles carrying explosives but the whole business of understanding other countries’ road signs is a matter which should be taken very seriously and some, such as those advising which roads are “priority routes”, inform drivers as to who has the right of way and abiding by this is almost as important as driving on the correct side of the road.

    The most important thing is to recognise which signs are concerned with road safety and which are simply providing information about local facilities. In France for example a sign simply showing the letter é over a silhouette of a village church simply indicates the location of a stop-over village (Village Étape) and a single letter t indicates the toll booth location for season ticket holders. It may be some consolation to know that French drivers’ knowledge of some of these minor signs is not much better than that of UK drivers.

    It should always be remembered that UK road signs are probably just as confusing to overseas visitors and we can only wonder what a Renault-driving Frenchman would do when confronted with a sign saying “FORD”.

    So, whatever country is to be visited, some time should be taken to become familiar with that country’s road signs and, if it has been some time since a driving test was passed, it would do no harm at all to also study the latest UK road signs as their numbers also steadily rise. The realisation that most of the important overseas road signs are intuitive comes as something of a relief to those with limited language skills and the few which are symbolic rather than pictorial can easily be learnt. Driving in a safe and considerate manner should be no more difficult overseas than at home and will win the respect and appreciation of local motorists. It also enables such trips to be fully enjoyed, carrying on the British tradition of travel and exploration. Take a look at the coop’s infographic:

    Road signs

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  • Alonso has 4 engines left in 2016

    It’s a tough way to start your Bahrain Grand Prix weekend but McLaren’s Fernando Alonso will have a new engine already after the ICE used in the Australia was too damaged following a massive crash.

    “We have recovered the power unit from Fernando’s car used in Melbourne,” said Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda’s F1 boss.

    “After initial investigations, we are massively disappointed that the ICE and most of the surrounding parts have been heavily damaged, as the impact from the accident was just too great. We will be replacing the complete power unit in Bahrain.”

    With precious few engines for the entirety of the season, Fernando is already on the back foot this year. You have to hand it to his positive face in the press though:

    “Firstly, I’m very pleased to be heading to Bahrain after the crash in Australia. I’ve spent some time resting and I can’t wait to get back in the car,” he said.

    “Although on paper Melbourne wasn’t a great race for us, before the crash I’d been having some good battles and the car felt pretty promising, so I hope in Bahrain we can experience more of the same.

    “We’re still pushing to bring upgrades to each race, so providing we can get everything to the car in time we’ll be aiming to get as much track time as possible with the new chassis from the start of free practice.”

    He’s right though, he was running relatively well compared to last year’s performance and might possibly have scored points if not for the crash with Haas F1 driver Esteban Gutierrez. Regardless, more challenges for McLaren Honda and only the second race into a 21-race season. As Sky points out, having 4 left is an issue considering they used 23 engines between drivers last season.


  • Controversial F1 qualifying system scrapped

    By , Permalink

    The controversial qualifying system used for the Australian Grand Prix has been scrapped for the remainder of the season.

    The new elimination-style format was brought in for the season-opening race of 2016, but a car-free track for the final three minutes of Q3 lead to heavy criticisms from teams and fans alike.

    Team bosses organised a last minute meeting to discuss the new rules.

    They decided on Sunday morning before the Australian Grand Prix to scrap the new style and revert to the traditional system used between 2006 and 2015.

    The old format will be used in two weeks time for the second race of the season in Bahrain.

  • No further action over Alonso-Gutierrez Australian GP crash


    The FIA have confirmed that there will be no further action following the dramatic crash between Fernando Alonso and Esteban Gutierrez.

    Alonso clipped the left rear of Gutierrez’s Haas as the pair approached Turn 3 on lap 18 of the Australian Grand Prix, pitching his McLaren into the wall and then into an airborne barrel roll across the gravel trap.

    The Spaniard was able to clamber out, with Gutierrez immediately running over to check if the double world champion was okay.

    After the incident, Alonso placed no blame on the Mexican driver and later on the FIA stewards also concurred with that assessment, declaring – after examining video evidence and speaking to both men – that ‘no driver was wholly or predominantly to blame’.

  • Rosberg wins Australian thriller

    Nico Rosberg won a thrilling Australian Grand Prix after a dramatic crash for Fernando Alonso.

    The German started from second behind his Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton but the pair suffered bad starts and were swamped by the Ferrari’s.

    But after a massive accident between Fernando Alonso and Esteban Gutierrez which brought out a red flag, a mixture of strategies between Mercedes and Ferrari handed the race back to the Silver Arrows.

    Bad Start for Mercedes

    Before the race even started there was drama as Daniil Kvyat was forced to pit and retire his Red Bull.

    As the lights went out both Mercedes drivers got off to slow starts while the Ferrari duo of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen quickly jumped and got ahead.

    Vettel managed to build a small lead over Raikkonen bur for Hamilton who suffered most at the start had to fend off Felipe Massa and Max Verstappen.

    The early pit stops kept Vettel ahead of Rosberg but soon after a dramatic accident brought a halt to proceedings.

    Red Flag Strategy Calls

    Fernando Alonso suffered a dramatic collision with the Haas of Esteban Gutierrez which sent the Spaniard flying off into the barriers at turn three.

    Fortunately, despite the crash, Alonso was safe and well.

    But with debris scattered over the circuit over the red flag was brought out.

    In the pits Rio Haryanto retired, but more importantly the teams were able change their tyres as they lined up in the pits.

    Most teams including the Mercedes pair elected to go onto the more durable medium tyres whereas the Ferrari’s surprisingly went for the super-softs.

    As the race got back underway it was clear the the mediums were the better tyres to be on.

    Kimi Raikkonen retired after a technical problem which saw fire coming out of the airbox.

    Vettel eventually pitted and was behind Hamilton allowing Rosberg to pull away.

    The German clawed back and put Hamilton under intense pressure for several laps in the dying moments of the race but after a delay in the pits and a spin with two laps to go Hamilton was able to breathe a sigh of relief.

    In the end Nico Rosberg took his fourth consecutive Grand Prix victory and a crucial 25 points to kick start his 2016 campaign.

    Hamilton took a strong second with Vettel just seconds behind.

    It was the best possible start after recovering from a bad opening lap for Mercedes and they left Melbourne with the maximum possible points.

    However Ferrari were much closer than 12 months ago and their pace means that there is a very real title challenge on the cards.

    Finishing behind Ricciardo, Massa took fifth away of the other Haas of Romain Grosjean – an impressive debut for the team.

    Britain’s Jolyon Palmer was running in the points mid-race on his debut but was passed by the Toro Rosso cars and ended up 11th, one place ahead of team-mate Kevin Magnussen.

    While Alonso had been running 10th before his crash, team-mate Jenson Button had a low-key race and took 14th.