Wednesday, June 24, 2015


That was a boring race. Really. A few laps in and it was processional. I thought the track was supposed to make it a good race but somehow it fizzled out. It's not helped by the fact that Lewis lost the lead at the start and didn't have the pace to challenge all race long. Yes there were some good battles at the back but still most laps were slow. Even the commentators were struggling with what to say.

Here is what PlanetF1 had to say about it.

Danger is never far away, McLaren into the abyss, game of moans and more in our conclusions from the Red Bull Ring.

As Formula 1 grapples with its latest identity crisis, much debate has centred on whether F1 is a business or showbiz, and whether F1 cars are fast and exciting enough. The discussion was rendered moot on lap 1 of the Austrian Grand Prix when Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari lost the rear on a straight and slapped Fernando Alonso's McLaren. The two cars came to a rest with Alonso's car sitting atop the nose of the Ferrari - the McLaren's sidepod and aero skirting just centimetres from Raikkonen's head.

"I was in the wrong place," said Alonso.
"It was a very strange incident because he lost the car in fifth gear or something like that."

F1 is part business and part showbiz, but the Raikkonen-Alonso shunt underscores that it is a sport. And a dangerous one at that. Alonso was involved in an incident at Spa in 2012 when Romain Grosjean's Lotus similarly lurched over the Spaniard's Ferrari and narrowly missed his helmet.

In both cases Alonso was an innocent bystander. Now 33 and with five retirements in his seven starts in 2015, Alonso might be contemplating his next career move - especially as his good friend Jules Bianchi remains in a coma following his crash at Suzuka in 2014. #JB17

On the bright side for Alonso, his first-lap incident spared him the ignominy of another catastrophic race. McLaren have between their two cars entered 16 races this season and have reached the chequered flag a mere six times.

Of the 9 failures to finish and one failure to start (Jenson Button in Bahrain), nine have been caused by mechanical problems:

- Power Units: 4
- Exhaust: 2
- Brakes: 1
- Electrics: 1
- Gearbox: 1
- NA: 1 (Austria retirement not released at time of writing)

Nico Rosberg's win moves him to within 10 points of Lewis Hamilton in the Championship.

The German rocketed past Hamilton through the inside of turn 1 on lap 1 and was feisty in his defence of the lead until the safety car was deployed following the Raikkonen-Alonso shunt.

Rosberg was criticised for his 'soft' wheel-to-wheel ability in 2014 and his showing amid the rolling hills of Austria will go some way to quell the critics.
"It's an awesome feeling to win again here. The start made the race. I really wanted to push this time and I opened the gap over Lewis," Rosberg said after the race.

Hamilton acknowledged he had a bad start and that Nico "was quicker in the race". The Brit's indiscretion at his one and only pit stop and ensuing five-second penalty put paid to his challenge for victory.

Rosberg, therefore, is the form driver having won three of the last four races. Victory at the next race, on Hamilton's home turf at Silverstone, presents the German with an opportunity to well and truly shake the Champion.

Ferrari's Canadian Grand Prix updates would, analysts said, offer the Scuderia the tonic required to push and even catch the Silver Arrows. Instead, Sebastian Vettel and Raikkonen have found themselves scrapping with the Williams of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas in Canada and Austria.

Aghast at the step backwards, the tifosi must be wondering how Vettel managed to win in Malaysia and how the men in red might repeat the feat.

Two factors are worthy of scrutiny.

First, Ferrari have engineered their own woes. At Montreal, Raikkonen's issues with engine mapping resulted in a spin that gifted Bottas the final step on the podium.

Maranello's strategists then got the Raikkonen's qualifying approach all wrong in Austria, which resulted in his exit in Q1. Adding to the litany of errors, the Ferrari mechanics struggled to replace Vettel's right rear tyre at his only pit stop, a blunder that cost him 10 seconds and a podium.

The second factor is the ultimate variable: the weather. Vettel won in Malaysia because the SF15-T responded better than Mercedes to the heat of Sepang. Ferrari will hope that the higher temperatures in the European summer season will help to close the gap to the Mercs.

Singapore may present a similar opportunity, but by then it will be too late. So, at what point do Ferrari channel extra resources to their 2016 challenger?

The fifth season of Game of Thrones and the 2015 F1 season make for a strange comparison, but there are some parallels.

Many critics have pilloried the HBO series for its predictable brutality and violence. While F1 doesn't exactly burn people alive, Mercedes' dominance is the sporting equivalent of flaying a rival alive. The Silver Arrows now have 21 one-two finishes in the modern era and have started on pole position in 19 consecutive grands prix.

In this environment of Merc dominance, questions swirling around the complexity of the current regulations have become more pointed. Niki Lauda believes F1 has been "regulated to death" while Alain Prost, Maurizio Arrivabene and Bernie Ecclestone have questioned the current rules.

The absurd 25-place penalties handed to McLaren highlight F1's current morass. Unlike Game of Thrones, which drew record viewership in its season finale this month, F1 viewing figures in 2014 were down across the globe and few would predict an uptick in F1 viewers in 2015.

Nico Hulkenberg's triumph at Le Mans has rejuvanated the German. After a middling season, the German qualifed fifth and finished a solid sixth in Austria.

Daniel Ricciardo finished tenth to collect one point for Red Bull at their home race. The only consolation for Red Bull at this stage is that they're not McLaren-Honda.

Pastor Maldanado had the biggest tank slapper in recent memory down the main straight on lap 70 on his way to a seventh-place finish. "It was a bit scary but okay. Good control!" said the Lotus driver, as he reached around and patted himself on the back.

By Michelle Foster
Nico Rosberg topped the charts, Lewis Hamilton is on the pit wall and did you hear the one about McLaren...

Good Race
Nico Rosberg; P1
Having missed out on pole position through a mistake at the final corner on his final flying lap, Nico Rosberg was quick to make amends as he snatched P1 off Lewis Hamilton at the start of Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix. Keeping his wits and bravery about him, he did not back down as the team-mates raced wheel-to-wheel to take the lead.

From there the German always appeared to have the measure of Hamilton as he raced unchallenged, although not entirely untroubled given a vibration in the closing laps, to his third win of this season. With Sunday's victory he also threw his hat into the ring for the World title as, more importantly than him closing the gap to Hamilton to 10 points, he proved he can come out tops when the two race it out.

Felipe Massa; P3
Some may say that Felipe Massa was gifted his first podium of the season thanks to a Ferrari error. Others will note that the Williams driver not only drove a flawless race but he did not buckle under the pressure when Sebastian Vettel caught him in the final laps. Success in F1 is about not only the driver but also the team getting it right. Massa did, Williams did, a podium was the end result.

Sebastian Vettel; P4
Sebastian Vettel did nothing wrong this weekend; you could say he did everything right. Ferrari, though, let him down. Problems in both Friday practices and yet he still finished the day quickest. A car unable to match the Mercedes in qualifying so he lined up third. A car also falling short on race-pace so he joined the Mercedes on the podium. Or at least he would have if Ferrari had not dropped the ball.

A botched pit stop - the one and only pit stop Ferrari did the entire Sunday and they could not get it right - left him in the pits for 13 seconds and dropped him behind Felipe Massa out on track. Yet Vettel never gave up and hunted down the Brazilian. He ran out of time.

Nico Hulkenberg; P6
Following up his Le Mans 24 Hours victory with a P6 in Spielberg, Nico Hulkenberg's phone must be ringing off the hook. Racing a VJM08 that is just days away from a massive (and much-needed) upgrade, the German raised his hand high into the air for a better 2016 race-seat as he qualified fifth and brought the car home in sixth place, his - and Force India's - best result of this season.

Max Verstappen; P8
Pastor Maldonado may have had a go at Max Verstappen in the wake of their closing-laps battle, saying the rookie driver "wasn't really respecting the rules" but, however you saw it, it made for a good racing. Taking on Valtteri Bottas, Daniil Kvyat and Maldonado at different times of the race - and at times wheel-to-wheel - Verstappen finished P8, his second points-haul of his fledgling F1 career.

On The Pitwall
Lewis Hamilton; P2
For just about any and every other driver, finishing a grand prix in second place would count as a good race – for many it would even be a great race. But not for Lewis Hamilton.

The reigning World Champion started Sunday's grand prix from pole position having edged Rosberg in qualifying, a session which ended with a mistake for both drivers. Hamilton, though, suffered a clutch issue off the line and before he knew it he was staring at Rosberg's rear wing.

A racer by reputation, fans had hoped it was only a matter of time before Hamilton attacked his team-mate for the lead but instead he drifted back. Even commentators were asking if he was biding his time for a late attack but that never happened and instead Hamilton incurred a five-second penalty for crossing the white line at the exit of the pitlane. A good reason for some to say why he finished second but most definitely not the true story.

Bad Race
Red Bull Racing; P10 and P12
They scored a point. At a race track that Red Bull owns and that carries the Red Bull name, dominated by a giant metal bull (not red), they scored a point. A single, solitary point.

McLaren; double DNF
I would never call a team with McLaren's history and prestige a joke but their performance this past weekend in Spielberg was laughable. Between Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso they amassed a 50-place drop on the grid (engine parts and a gearbox). But given that there are only 20 places that meant in-race penalties for both. And all this taking place in front of Honda's head honcho.

The team's misery was compounded when Alonso, completely innocent in the matter, was taken out by Kimi Raikkonen on the opening lap, which meant McLaren were unable to gather any useful data from the new aero package - including the short nose - that the Spaniard was running. Button's race didn't last much longer as he retired with an electrical problem on lap 8.

Despite their rather public woes, the drivers sprouted off phrases such as "in a good place" (Button) and "the crisis is over" (Alonso). To anyone watching the only place McLaren are in is in the pits and the crisis is far from over.

Kimi Raikkonen; DNF
On the up side, Kimi Raikkonen is making Ferrari's decision on whether or not to keep him rather easy. On the down side, it probably won’t go in his favour.

Even if the 2007 World Champion was done in by his team in qualifying, and that depends on whether you're wearing your 'Iceman' cap, having a go at your team is never a good idea especially while still in the interview process. And crashing out on the first lap is a big no-no. That, though, is exactly what Raikkonen did. Yes he was on the prime tyres, which gave less grip, but so too were Maldonado, Perez and Ricciardo and none of them suffered wheel spin. None of them had a tank-slapper. None of them ended the race with Fernando Alonso on their head.

Marcus Ericsson; P13
Oy vey, what do you say to that. Jumping the start is a rookie error and a rather embarrassing one. Could the Swede have scored if not for that mistake and subsequent penalty? Given that his fastest lap time for the race was on a par with sixth-placed Nico Hulkenberg and only marginally slower than Verstappen's and Perez's, Sauber will be wondering the same.

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Friday, June 19, 2015


The Austrian Grand Prix (German: Großer Preis von Österreich) is a Formula One race held in 1964, 1970–1987 and 1997–2003. The Grand Prix is set to be revived at the Red Bull Ring during the 2014 Formula One season. The Red Bull Ring is a motorsport circuit in Spielberg, Styria, Austria. The race circuit was founded as Österreichring and hosted the Formula One Austrian Grand Prix for 18 consecutive years, from 1970 to 1987. It was later shortened, rebuilt and renamed the A1-Ring, it hosted the Austrian Grand Prix again from 1997 to 2003.

When Formula One outgrew the circuit, a plan was drawn up to extend the layout. Parts of the circuit, including the pits and main grandstand, were demolished, but construction work was stopped and the circuit remained unusable for several years before it was purchased by Red Bull's Dietrich Mateschitz and rebuilt. Renamed the Red Bull Ring the track was reopened on 15 May 2011 and subsequently hosted a round of the 2011 DTM season and a round of the 2011 F2 championship. Formula One will return to the circuit in the 2014 season.

It is essentially the same layout as the old (A1 Ring) circuit, very simple with just nine corners, four flat out stretches where the cars hit 300km/h and a very short lap time of around 68 seconds. Most teams have only simulations to go on and some of the details which will be important to deciding race strategy – such as the exact pit lane length and pit stop time – will be measured and worked out during practice on Friday. It looks similar to Canada in terms of the amount of energy and loading going into the tyres, so Pirelli has brought the same soft and supersoft tyres and it predicts a two stop strategy to be the default for the race.


Track length : 4.326 kilometers
Race distance : 71 laps (full world championship points awarded after 75 per cent distance/54 laps)
Run to Turn One : 185 metres
Longest straight : 868m, on the approach to Turn One
Corners : 9 corners in total. A circuit made up of four straights and a few tight corners
Aerodynamic setup : Medium/High downforce
Top speed : 315km/h (with Drag Reduction System active on rear wing) – 304km/h without
Full throttle : 70% of the lap (high), 10 seconds unbroken full throttle on main straight
Fuel consumption : High
Time spent braking : 14% of lap (high), 7 braking zones
Brake wear : High
Total time needed for pit stop at 80km/h (est) : 22 seconds

Did you know?

Jochen Rindt was F1’s first German-born world champion. He was born in Mainz, Germany, but was raised in Graz after his parents were killed in a World War II bombing raid. He took Austrian nationality and became the sport’s only posthumous world champion in 1970 when he was killed at the Italian Grand Prix.


The track is located in the Styrian mountains, so the weather conditions can change quickly. Although rain is expected during the coming three days at the Red Bull Ring, current forecasts indicate it will arrive overnight on Friday and most likely won’t interfere with the following day’s running at the track.

Friday is likely to be the pick of the three days at the circuit near Knittelfeld in the Styrian countryside. It offers the best chance of seeing some sunshine and temperatures could exceed 20C.

Slightly cooler conditions are expected for qualifying and the race – Sunday could see the mercury struggle to get far above 16C. With the soft and super-soft tyres allocated for this weekend, lower temperatures may aid tyre life but could make graining a problem, as it was for those who started the race on the super-soft tyre last year.


The Austrian Grand Prix, which returns to Formula 1 this weekend, will feature two DRS zones. Controlled by separate detection points, governing body the FIA has decided to place the two activation areas along the start/finish straight and between the Remus and Schlossgold corners of the Red Bull Ring circuit.


For the third race in succession, the P Zero Yellow soft and P Zero Red supersoft tyres have been nominated. The demands on the tyres are relatively low, with two straights and reasonably slow corners. The Austrian Grand Prix reappeared on the Formula One calendar for the first time in 11 seasons last year, meaning that the teams will now be able to use the data from 2014 when it comes to formulating the optimal strategy. After the Austrian Grand Prix, the final two-day in-season test of the year will take place on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The surface at the Red Bull Ring is low grip and low abrasion, with the track getting progressively quicker as the weekend goes on. Even though the asphalt is new, the track is quite bumpy in places, which makes it difficult to find consistent grip. Last year most drivers did a two-stopper, although three managed a one-stop. Race winner Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) started on the supersoft, changed to the soft on lap 11, then to the soft again on lap 40. His strategy allowed him to win even though he started from third on the grid.

Expected performance gap between the two compounds: 0.7 - 0.9 seconds per lap.


Last year’s Austrian Grand Prix weekend showed that even in hyper-professional Formula One, mistakes can be made – several slip-ups by Lewis Hamilton in qualifying compromised his and Nico Rosberg’s run in Q3 and opened the door for Williams to lock out the front row of the grid. That set up an intriguing race as the Mercedes drivers set about prising the lead from the hands of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas.

Twelve months on, no one has beaten Mercedes to a pole position since. But Williams and Ferrari could be a more competitive proposition this weekend, and the Red Bull Ring’s compact layout often serves to lessen the performance gap between cars.

And I fully expect Lewis Hamilton to hammer his advantage into Rosberg's head once again on this power track.

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Saturday, June 6, 2015


The Canadian Grand Prix (known in French as the Grand Prix du Canada), abbreviated as gpc, is an annual auto race held in Canada starting in 1961. It has been part of the Formula One World Championship since 1967. It was first staged at Mosport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario as a sports car event before it alternated between Mosport and Circuit Mont-Tremblant, Quebec after Formula One took over the event. After 1971, safety concerns led to the Grand Prix moving permanently to Mosport.

In 1978, after similar safety concerns with Mosport, the Canadian Grand Prix moved to its current home at the Circuit Giles Villeneuve on Île Notre-Dame in Montreal. In 2005, the Canadian Grand Prix was the most watched Formula One GP in the world. The race was also the third most watched sporting event worldwide, behind the first place Super Bowl XXXIX and the UEFA Champions League Final.

This weekend is the Canadian Grand Prix at Montreal, one of the F1 fraternity’s favourite races and a solid favourite with many drivers. Montreal is unique, with its long straights and corners lined with walls, especially the “Wall of Champions” on the exit of the final chicane once hit by three World Champs in the same 1999 race. With a combination of long straights, numerous chicanes and the close proximity of barriers to the track, the Montreal circuit places stress on engines and brakes as well as driver concentration. The track itself is bumpy and generally low grip, due to the fact that it is rarely used outside of the grand prix weekend. With the lack of long corners and emphasis on traction, tyre wear around Montreal is relatively low. Thanks to the configuration of the Montreal track, overtaking tended to be easier on it than at most circuits.


Track length : 4.36 kilometers
Race distance : 70 laps (305 kilometers)
Corners : 12 corners in total made up of straights, chicanes and a hairpin
Aerodynamic setup : Medium downforce
Top speed : 326km/h (with Dag Reduction System active on rear wing) – 316km/h without
Full throttle : 60% of the lap (quite high, 15 seconds unbroken full throttle on main straight)
Time spent braking : 17% of lap (high, 7 braking zones)
Brake wear : Very High
Total time needed for pit stop at 80km/h : 18.8 seconds

After the extreme of Monaco, qualifying is significantly less important at Montreal because overtaking is easy and with a short pit lane, this also has a big bearing on race strategy, generally pushing teams towards more stops rather than less.

There have been a number of changes to the track since last year; the wall and fence behind the run-off area at T10 have been renewed, whilst new walls and fences have replaced guardrails on both sides of the track between Turns 10 and 12. Also, from now on cars straying into the run-off area at T13 will have a new line between bollards to follow when rejoining the track.


Set on the St Lawrence seaway, Montreal can experience extremes of weather for the race; it can be very hot and humid, but also cold and wet, as it was in 2011. In 2011 the race was halted for four hours while the officials waited for the rain to abate (incidentally, the rules were rewritten after this to ensure no such delays happened again). It is common to see huge temperature variations – 15 degrees of track temperature on one day and 35 degrees on another.

It is one of the most extreme circuit locations for this phenomenon. Friday is set to be overcast, while Saturday and Sunday are forecast to be warm and sunny. Ambient temperature is predicted to be 19C.
The Montreal Plateau Webcam run by Adrian Platts is a useful way of keeping an eye on incoming weather systems at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, as it is located 2km west of the circuit and usually sees its incoming weather. Find it HERE.


Canada has the same tyre nomination as Monaco - soft and supersoft - but quite a different challenge. The track is a lot more demanding for tyres than Monaco, which should lead to a greater degree of wear and degradation. The biggest forces at work are longitudinal (acceleration and braking) rather than lateral (cornering) - and these are the factors that influence wear and degradation in Canada. The nature of the track also means that there is more opportunity to use tyre strategy to gain track position, with a variety of different strategies in the mix last year. Although the demands on tyres are not especially high, due to a low-grip surface, there are some big kerbs that require a tough tyre structure, and the circuit is also famously hard on brakes. Uncertain weather is often a factor at the semi-permanent track, which adds another element of unpredictability.

Last year's strategy and how the race was won: A variety of one and two-stop strategies were seen at the race last year, which was characterised by two safety car periods. Daniel Ricciardo won the race for Red Bull using a two-stop strategy, taking the lead on fresher tyres with two laps to go. The top four all stopped twice, with the highest-placed one-stopper being Force India's Nico Hulkenberg in fifth, who started on the soft and completed a 41-lap stint before switching to supersoft.

Expected performance gap between the two compounds: 1.0 - 1.2 seconds per lap.


After the single zone of Monaco it's back to two DRS zones for Canada. Both are run from a single detection point shortly after the exit of Turn 9. Being in DRS range here can be more important than being ahead on track; hence the somewhat amusing sight in 2013 of Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso both slowing because neither wanted to be ahead at the detection point.

The first zone's activation point comes just after the exit of the right-hand kink of Turn 12 on the back straight, and it ends with braking at the final chicane. The second zone has an activation point just after the exit of the final chicane, and it runs the length of the pit straight and ends at the braking zone of Turn 1.


The chances of a safety car at Montreal are very high at 56%. Seven of the last 12 Canadian Grands Prix have featured at least one safety car. This is because, with the track lined with walls and several blind corners, there are frequent accidents and the conditions for the marshals when clearing debris from an accident are dangerous. Montreal has the highest rate of Safety Car deployments per race of any circuit bar Singapore.


Who Will Get Their Strategies Right?
The weather, crashes, safety cars and tyre strategies make for an interesting race in Canada and of course they are all interlinked. The weather is usually unpredictable and a few spots of rain can lead to a crash, which often results in a safety car and can ultimately change a team's strategy.

The word "strategy" is on everyone's lips following Mercedes' gaffe at Monte Carlo where Lewis Hamilton was on course for victory before the deployment of the safety car prompted the team to call him in.

Will The Brakes Hold Up?
The brakes usually take a heavy beating at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve with cars going from 300km/h at the hairpin to about 60km/h all in the space of a few seconds.

Mercedes, Red Bull and Lotus, to name just a few, have all had brake issues this year already. Although Merc claimed a 1-3 finish at the Bahrain GP, both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg had brake-by-wire failures at the same corner with the latter losing out P2 to Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari due to the issue.

Red Bull and Lotus have pretty much been hampered all season by brake problems and any small issue will take its toll on a circuit like Montreal.

Just How Much More Power Will McLaren And Ferrari Have?
The McLaren-Honda upward curve continued at the Monaco Grand Prix last time out with Jenson Button scoring their first points, but Circuit Gilles Villeneuve brings a different set of challenges and their Honda engine will come under scrutiny.

Both Honda and Ferrari have confirmed they have used their engine development tokens with the Japanese manufacturer using two and the Scuderia three ahead of the Canadian GP. If they get enough power, then it all indicates to a very good weekend for Button and Fernando Alonso, provided they can sort out their reliability woes of course.

Can Mercedes End Their Montreal Drought?
It's hard to believe, but Mercedes have never won a grand prix as a constructor at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Rosberg and Hamilton locked out the front-row of the grid last year, but they suffered almost simultaneous MGU-K problems and Hamilton went on to retire due to a brake failure (not that again) later in the race. Daniel Ricciardo then overtook Rosberg on the penultimate lap to claim his first win.

Hamilton, though, has an impressive record at Montreal as he won there three times with McLaren in 2012, 2010 and 2007 and also started in pole on several occasions. In other words it is a track that he fancies and should do well at if he is given the right equipment and he should have that underneath him, especially if you take into account that Merc will use new power units for both Hamilton and Rosberg. However, Canada is known for throwing up interesting results like Ricciardo's win last year or Robert Kubica's success with BMW-Sauber in 2008.

More Canadian Woe For Williams?
Valtteri Bottas warned that Williams can't afford to have another race where we are nowhere, adding that "somehow the slower the speed gets, we lose more downforce compared to the others". The good news for Bottas and Felipe Massa is that the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is pretty high-speed compared to Monaco, but their recent results in Canada don't make for pretty reading. Bottas and Massa were solid in qualifying in 2014, but they could be in for another tough race day, especially if the likes of McLaren move up.

Who Will Kiss The Wall Of Champions?
Will any names (rookies or veterans) be added to the infamous list of drivers who have made contact with the Wall of Champions where drivers reach top speeds in excess of 310kph on the approach to Turn 15?

Of the current crop, Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button and Pastor Maldonado have all crashed at the final corner. Felipe Nasr, Carlos Sainz, Max Verstappen, Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi will all make their F1 debuts at the circuit this weekend so there is plenty of potential for a little brush here and there while Maldonado is also still in the field.

Will they make changes to the kerb at the exit of the final right-left chicane, which will result in a few more kisses? Time will tell.


Simple. Lewis Hamilton is gonna blow everybody away with a win in Canada. We all know he's good for it. Of course that is the Hamilton fan in me talking. But who knows what will happen. All I know is that it's gonna be edge of seat stuff again. So bring on Canada.

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