The Simpsons 500th Episode

So here we are at an unbelievable milestone for the most famous family on TV. After first airing on December 17th 1989 they have reached 500 shows! Now, whatever you think of the show, the family or Fox Television, this is quite an achievement.

While Family Guy may have taken the “most dysfunctional family” crown in many peoples opinion, that show has also been cancelled, twice! So to go this distance and by the sound of it the end is still not in sight, this is something you have got to give them credit for.

This is the longest running American sitcom, animated and prime-time show, with a multi hundred million dollar movie and awards galore. They are simply are HUGE… or should that be were.
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Mercedes unveils the W03

The new Mercedes W03 was officially unveiled to the world’s press just prior to the start of the second week of official Formula One testing at the Circuit de Catalunya.

As seen in the spy shots earlier last week, the W03 features the stepped nose, similar to that of several other Formula One cars.

The new car has already been shaken down at Silverstone last week, and conducted a private test at Catalunya on Sunday – which the team were permitted to undertake because it had only been present for three of the four days of running at Jerez earlier this month.

Mercedes chose to stick with its 2011 car for Jerez in order to gain valuable data on this season’s Pirelli tyres, and was quickest on two of the days it was present – though it was running to full 2011 specification, including the no-longer-permitted exhaust-blown diffuser.

Norbert Haug, Mercedes motorsport chief, has commented that the W03 would not feature any radical innovations – contrary to speculation that the team had waited until the second test to reveal the car because it featured technical breakthroughs it did not want rivals to copy.

The most obvious outward change is the move to a stepped nose, in common with the majority of rival teams.

Having been unable to beat rivals Red Bull Racing, McLaren and Ferrari to race wins in its first two years, Mercedes GP is hoping to get among the top three on a more regular basis this season.

Last year it revamped its technical team with the addition of former Renault engineer Bob Bell, ex-Ferrari design chief Aldo Costa, and Geoff Willis, formerly of Williams, BAR and Red Bull Racing.

Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher continue in an unchanged driver line-up at Mercedes. With Schumacher coming into the final season of what was initially planned as a three-year comeback deal, speculation about whether the seven-time world champion will stay on into 2013 and beyond is likely to be one of the biggest stories around Mercedes this season.

Williams reveal FW34 moments before official testing starts

The Williams-Renault FW34 has been revealed to the world’s press just a few hours before the start of the opening pre-season testing in Jerez.

After a very poor 2011 season, in which the Grove-based team scored just five points and finished ninth in the constructors’ standings, Williams are hoping for a changes in fortunes this year.

The FW34 is the first Williams to be produced since the major change of technical line-up at the team, which saw erstwhile technical director Sam Michael head for McLaren and co-founder Patrick Head step away from the Formula One side of the operation. Mark Gillan now leads the technical side of the operation.

The FW34 also sees the reunion of the multiple championship winning Williams-Renault partnership, as the Grove-based squad switches from its previous Cosworth V8s to the engine that powered Red Bull Racing to the last two titles.

On the driver side, Bruno Senna has replaced Rubens Barrichello, while Pastor Maldonado remains for a second season. Test driver Valtteri Bottas gets an enhanced role that will include some Friday practice running.

Team principal Frank Williams said: “One could say that looking at the Williams F1 Team today we are off to a truly fresh start. We have a new car, new driver line up, new engine and new senior personnel.

“We also have a number of new partners who have joined the team in the past few months. I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome them formally and sincerely wish that they have an enjoyable and, most importantly, a valuable experience with us. The team has had a good winter at the factory and we feel ready and strong for the fight.”

The new charging Red Bull RB8

This is the car that all the Formula One teams must beat following the unveiling of the new RB8 from defending world champions Red Bull Racing.

The Milton Keynes-based squad hopes the Adrian Newey-designed machine will continue their ultra successful title winning run in 2012 with the Renault-powered RB8.

Having taken Sebastian Vettel to the last two drivers’ titles alongside its 2010 and 2011 constructors’ crowns, Red Bull Racing’s latest design is the most eagerly awaited of the new season contenders.

Adrian Newey, the man generally regarded as the key to Red Bull’s recent domination, is again responsible for leading the RB8 design.

The car appears outwardly similar to last year’s all-conquering RB7, which won 12 out of 19 races, but features a revised nose layout and a different exhaust to accommodate this season’s rule changes.

Attention has been focused on the stepped nose design on RB8 and close inspection reveals a possible f-duct system could be in place… Does Newey have an aero secret up his sleeve with the now dubbed ‘Bull-duct‘?

The line-up of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber remain unchanged for the fourth consecutive season. However, ex-Toro Rosso racer Sebastien Buemi is now Red Bull Racing’s reserve.

Video of the Red Bull Racing RB8 launch:

The new STR7 from Scuderia Toro Rosso

Scuderia Toro Rosso unveiled their latest contender for this year’s world championship with the STR7, ahead of the official start of Formula One testing at Jerez.

As expected, the STR7 features a stepped nose, similar to that seen in all the 2012 Formula One cars unveiled so far apart from the McLaren MP4-27, which opted for a different approach with a low chassis and nose treatment.

The Toro Rosso, powered by Ferrari engines for the sixth season, will be driven by Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne after the team opted for an all-new line-up for the upcoming season.

Last year, the Faenza-based squad finished in eighth position in the constructors’ standings with Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi.

“On Saturday (February 4th) at 10.00 am when loading the car I wasn’t convinced we could do it in time as there was so much snow, but we did it,” said team boss Franz Tost during the launch.

“The STR7 is the third car designed, fabricated and assembled completely by Toro Rosso. We have invested a lot of money to build up the infrastructure and I hope the results will be good in the forthcoming season. This investment was only possible because we have strong partners.

“Tomorrow (February 7th) we go out the first time with the new car and it is always something very special. We have two new highly skilled drivers and I am convinced both will do a very good job.

“Last year we finished eighth in constructors’ and this year we hope to do better, so seventh or more.”

The new car will take to the Spanish track for its debut run on the first official day of testing. Australian’s Ricciardo will have the unique honour to shakedown the new Toro Rosso STR7.

Sauber unveils the C31

Sauber have unveiled their contender, the Ferrari-powered C31, for the 2012 Formula One world championship.

The Swiss squad finished in seventh place in the constructors’ standings last year after scoring 44 points following a strong start to the season.

After a drop in performance during the middle part of 2011, Sauber managed to keep rival Scuderia Toro Rosso at bay thanks to two point-scoring results in the final races of the season, thus securing seventh position.

The team will have an unchanged line-up for 2012 in the shape of Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez.

The Hinwil-based squad will start the season without its technical director James Key, who announced last week he was leaving the team he had joined at the start of 2010.

“Our goal is to finish regularly in the points so as to put ourselves in a significantly better position in the world championship,” said team boss Peter Sauber.

“We are looking forward to another season working with our young and talented drivers. Kamui will be competing in his third full season in F1. Last year we asked him to take on leadership responsibilities within the team and he has grown into the role.

“With his rookie season behind him Sergio is now approaching his second season, which is often the most difficult in a driver’s Formula 1 career. Both drivers have huge potential and will work with the same race engineers as in 2011 to continue developing that promise.”

The C31 continues with the trend set by other teams and it incorporates a stepped nose.

Unlike last year, the new Sauber features a pull-rod design for its rear suspension, allowing for improved packaging of the rear spring and damper elements.

The new Lotus E20 unveiled online

The Lotus E20, the Enstone-based team’s 2012 Formula One challenger, has been revealed via an online event broadcast on the team’s website and YouTube channel.

The team, which competed as Renault last year has changed its identity and will be going into its first season with full Lotus branding.

The E20 is outwardly one of the more traditional designs unveiled so far, though it features the stepped nose design now commonplace, and reverts to a traditional exhaust layout – as mandated by the 2012 regulations – after last year’s experiment with a forward exiting exhaust. Team boss Eric Boullier hinted that the design featured plenty of subtle innovations.

“It’s true that the team’s reputation is good in terms of innovation and we brought through the last years some nice ones, and let’s say some more delicate ones, but definitely we have some this year,” he said.

The car is the first to be entered by the ex-Renault team under the Lotus title after the end of the branding dispute with rival team owner Tony Fernandes, whose erstwhile Lotus squad now runs as Caterham.

The E20 keeps the traditional black and gold colours used by the original Team Lotus team in the 1970s and 80s, and features prominent new sponsorship from Unilever brands Rexona and Clear.

Lotus has enticed 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen back to Formula One this year, with former test driver Romain Grosjean promoted to the second race seat alongside the Iceman after claiming last year’s GP2 title.

Boullier said the priority was to bring a winning spirit back to Enstone, which had claimed championships in its Benetton and Renault eras, most recently in 2006 with Fernando Alonso.

“My biggest hope is obviously to bring this positivity back again and to make sure this team is again at the front of the grid and for many years and a long time,” said Boullier.

“Also, to have all the people in Enstone enjoying life here and enjoying their passion for motor racing and F1.

“The fear is that we can have anything wrong which you cannot expect or handle and which would slow down this process.”

Lotus were known to have been working on a reactive ride height system for the E20, which they tested on its predecessor in Abu Dhabi late last year. However the sport’s governing body banned the system last month.

Video of the Lotus E20 launch:

Ferrari launches the F2012 challenger

Scuderia Ferrari unveiled their new car, the F2012, in Maranello with the team hopes it will return to world championship-winning glory.

After being forced to cancel its launch ceremony because of heavy snow at the team’s base, the Scuderia published the first set of images of the new F2012 on its official website instead.

Having promised a more radical approach with its car that it has had in recent seasons, the new Ferrari is the result of a big effort at the factory under the guidance of new technical director Pat Fry.

That distinctive nose design as seen on the Caterham CT01 and Force India VJM05 makes an appearance and first impressions are the new Ferrari is not a looker.

Hopefully the F2012 will lead Fernando Alonso to championship glory this season, with the Spaniard only taking a single win in 2011, while team-mate Felipe Massa never finished higher than fifth.

“The main changes when compared to 2011 concern the height of the front section of the chassis, the position of the exhaust pipes and the mapping for the electronic engine management,” said a statement released by the team.

“Practically every area of the car has been fundamentally revised, starting with the suspension layout: both the front and rear feature pull-rods, aimed at favouring aerodynamic performance and lowering the centre of gravity.

“The front wing is derived from the one introduced on the 150° Italia in the final part of its racing life and has been evolved from there. Further evolutions are planned in this area for the opening races of the season.

“The nose has a step in it that is not aesthetically pleasing: with the requirement from the regulations to lower the front part, this was a way of raising the bottom part of the chassis as much as possible for aerodynamic reasons. The sides have been redesigned, through modifications to the side impact structures, the repositioning of the radiators and revisions to all aerodynamic elements.

“The lower part of the rear of the car is much narrower and more tapered, a feature achieved partly through a new gearbox casing and a relocation of some mechanical components. In recent years, the area of exhausts has been crucial in terms of car performance and much effort was expended on this front, based on changes to the regulations introduced this year. The rear wing is conceptually similar to the one used in 2011, but every detail of it has been revised and it is now more efficient.

“Naturally, it is still fitted with DRS (a drag reduction system,) which is operated hydraulically. The front and rear air intakes for the brakes have been redesigned and work was carried out in collaboration with Brembo to optimise the braking system.”

Hopefully all that hard work in the wind tunnel and R&D will pay off, but it is not clear if the team will be able to complete any mileage prior to the first official test with the F2012 at Jerez in Spain next week due to the heavy snow.

The new Force India VJM05

Sahara Force India has revealed its new VJM05 at Silverstone today (February 3rd), with the new car featuring a distinctive nose.

The Mercedes-engined VJM05 features a nose design similar to that of the 2012 Caterham, and heavily revised sidepods in line with the new exhaust rules. Force India has also dropped its ‘blade’ style rollhoop design.

The new colour scheme looks better compared to last year’s car but that ‘hammerhead shark’ nose certainly makes the VJM05 look unique.

This is the second car produced under technical director Andrew Green. The Silverstone-based team operates an alternating system of project leaders, and the VJM05 is thus the responsibility of Akio Haga, Ian Hall having overseen last year’s car.

It is hoped that the new car will allow Force India to challenge for the top five in the constructors’ championship after finishing a best-ever sixth last year. The team has replaced Adrian Sutil with Nico Hulkenberg, while Paul di Resta stays on in the sister car.

“I think every individual in this team has put a lot of effort into his car,” di Resta told Sky Sports News. “The momentum we had at the end of last year, hopefully we’ve manged to carry that over but I must say it is a fine piece of art. Hopefully when it gets to track it’ll be able to show what it’s capable of.”

Hulkenberg, who drove for Williams in 2010 and was Force India’s reserve driver in 2011, said: “It feels good to be making a return to F1.

“I was very happy when I found out because last year, sat on the sidelines wasn’t easy. But still a good year because Force India gave me the opportunity to prove my skills on Friday mornings.

“I think I improved and continued to learn in 2011, but in different ways. Obviously I wasn’t driving, but behind the scenes, on the pitwall seeing how everything worked – these are all things that should help me in races.”

McLaren unveils the MP4-27

The Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team unveiled their latest challenger, the MP4-27, during a press event in Woking today (February 1st).

The team hopes the Mercedes-powered car will deliver that elusive championship success after missing out on both the drivers’ and constructors’ titles for the past two years.

Even though McLaren scored six victories last season in the hands of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, the team were severely beaten by the dominant Red Bull, especially up against the youngest back-to-back champion Sebastian Vettel.

Button, who finished in the runner-up position in last year’s championship, believes that the MP4-27 will deliver good results for the team.

“It’s very exciting day for us all,” said Button. “It’s the moment when we see how hard we’ve all been working.

“These guys have been flat out since we finished racing in 2011 on improving the car as much as they could in the simulator and I’m looking forward to getting out in it at Jerez.

“I am sure everyone is apprehensive when you start testing and I cannot wait to jump in the car.”

After admiring the MP4-27 for the first time, Hamilton said: “I think it is fantastic. It’s great to be here after a great winter.

“Seeing hard work going into building this car is inspiring. It is the most refined-looking car we have had for some time so we are looking forward to getting back in it.”

Ahead of his sixth season with the team, Hamilton added: “It feels very much like only yesterday when I went up to (former team boss) Ron (Dennis) and said I wanted to race for his team.

“But we’ve been competing at the front all those years. We’ve strength in depth, a great foundation from which we work. This is a team that never gives up.”

Caterham were the first team to launch last week (January 25th), with their car sporting a ‘duck-billed platypus’ shaped nose, the result of the meeting between front suspension and chassis.

That has been based on the new FIA regulations that decree a higher nose, with many suspecting that would be the way forward, leading to it being described as ‘ugly’.

However, the new McLaren remained very much true to past cars, with a smooth transition across the chassis from cockpit to the front wing.

Button said: “This is a beautiful car, which for me is important. Many you see will not be.”

Hamilton concurred, adding: “We’re coming in massively motivated, very fresh, and when you have a good-looking car, generally it’s a good car, so hopefully that is the case.”

Hamilton and Button represent a third of the six world champions that will be on the grid this season for the first time in the sport’s history.

The British champions are joined by Vettel, Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso and the returning Kimi Raikkonen, who this season will be driving for Lotus.

Hamilton added: “We love to have competition. It’s great to have so many great drivers. Hopefully there won’t be too many more added to it.

“It’s great for fans, great for the sport.”

So the drivers and team are motivated. Can the MP4-27 deliver that championship success following Red Bull domination? I’ll await with keen enthusiasm during the official testing at Jerez next week.