September 30, 2007

F1 UPDATE!: JAPAN DRIVER QUOTES!

*DRIVER QUOTES OF THE RACE:

"Well, that was different. Except me on the podium, that is. That's still the same. Gee, where's Alonso?" - Lewis Hamilton

"I couldn't see Kimi during those last few laps, because my mirrors had steamed up. Don't ask what I was doing to make them steam up, please." - Heikki Kovaleininininnie

"mrmmgmrm mrmmrmmml cold mrmrlmlmrrmmlm wet mrbmlmblm mbmbl." - Kimi Raikkonen

"It’s a crazy thing to be a racing driver - on the one hand you’re scared, but on the other, you’re having the time of your life because every moment you’re right on the edge, even on the straights." - David Coulthard's Chin (note: real quote)

"For god's sake, I finished fifth today, and I wasn't ever on camera. Not even when I crossed the line. Everybody else got a camerashot. What's a guy gotta do?" - Giancarlo Fisichella

"I was told I was going to win the Championship. 'It is in the bag,' Todt said, 'no problem.' I'm holding my breath until I'm declared the champion. mmmmph!" - Felipe Massa

"I lost places at the start because my car ingested water into the air filter, and I had no power. The car also ingested water into the cockpit, struts, steering wheel, engine cover, rear wing, brake ducts, six-point harness, gearbox, and driver." - Robert Kubica

"It's great earning a point for Toro Rosso. Wait, what?" - Vitantonio Liuzzi (note: Liuzzi was docked a point for passing Adrian Sutil under the safety car... leading to...)

"I missed earning Spyker's first point by one place. We were SO close. Wait, what?" - Adrian Sutil

"Spyker. Now we're being beaten by Spyker." - Rubens Barrichello

"Y'know, the car was actually EASIER to drive without the front wing..." - Jenson Button (note: Immediately after the safety car left the track, he was involved in an incident that removed said wing. He then proceeded to drive for another five laps without it.)

"I think we also should think of the Japanese fans as they were watching right to the end when it was so cold and wet!" - Sakon Yamamoto (note: real quote)

"It was a very difficult race from the beginning. Even behind the safety car the conditions were really bad - there was a lot of spray and it was hard to see anything on the straight. Then when the safety car came in the race was very wet and visibility was really, really poor. I think it was a tough afternoon for everyone out there, very cold and wet, and obviously I am disappointed with this result. Safety car.” - Jarno Trulli (mostly real quote)

"Mommy." - Grizzly Nick Heidfeld (note: pulled off-track and parked the instant Lewis Hamilton took the checkers.)

"It was very cold in the cockpit. And wet. Don't forget wet. Did I mention it was wet? And cold. At least it put out the fire quickly. I would like to thank the fans who have supported us through such cold, wet weather. Safety car." - Takuma Sato

"I tried to retire, but they sent me back out. No, really, I tried to retire: my job at the Berlin McDonalds started the next day, and I had to grab a flight." - Ralf Schumacher

"“It was a very difficult day here in Fuji. Very wet and cold conditions made it very hard for all the drivers. And cold. Wet. Are you sensing a theme here?" - Ant Davidson

"Probably the worst conditions I have ever raced in, very wet and cold. I couldn’t see a thing, and the rain caused an electronics failure that made it impossible to for me to turn right. But, on the other hand, I won today's NASCAR event." - Nico Rosberg

“I made a good start and the race was going well. Then, with the final safety car, I was behind Lewis and Mark and exiting Turn 13, I looked to the right and saw Lewis going really slowly, I don't know why, but I thought he had a problem. Probably he was heating his brakes. Then, by the time I looked forward again, I was already in the back of Mark's car and I think he had also reacted to Lewis. I apologise now to Mark because I ruined both our races. Now I'm going to go kill myself." - Sebastian Vettel (note: mostly real quote)

“That was a completely disastrous finish. Vettel... ...did a very good job of hitting me very hard under the second safety car. I think today he will have learnt a very valuable lesson.” - Mark Webber (note: real quote. We here at F1 UPDATE! know we saw a slightly less printable quote immediately after the race, something about "f#%&ing rookies..." If you saw that quote, please let us know in the comments. It was brilliant, and now it seems to have been scrubbed from the 'net.)

"AIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!" - Fernando Alonso

"It was very bad out there today. The only way I can describe it is if you close your eyes and run through your house at high speed - then you have some idea of how it was.” - Man-mountain Wurz (note: real quote)

So, that ends this cold, wet episode of F1 UPDATE!. Next week, we'll have coverage of the Chinese Grand Prix... with special guest commentary from Vaucaunson's Duck!

So stay tuned!

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September 29, 2007

F1 UPDATE!: JAPAN!

Back in the good ol' days, every race at Fuji started like this:

Wow, 1000 point bonus!

The view from Massa's car.

Today? Not so much.

*SPA IS CALLING, THEY WANT THEIR WEATHER BACK: For only the fourth time in F1 history, the race began behind the safety car. Why?

Oh.

Because the wet weather on Saturday became even worse by the race. In fact, this was probably the wettest race we at F1 UPDATE! have ever seen... and that includes this year's European Grand Prix. See, that race just had one downpour. Today's race had medium-to-heavy rain all day long. So much rain fell, in fact, that the first 17 laps were run behind the safety car. While we believe it was a bad decision to do that, at least the race did complete in the two-hour time limit.

*DID WE MENTION THE RAIN?: This view from Takuma Sato's cockpit just says it all:

It was like this all day.

The surprising thing was that there were so few accidents.

*OH, THE RACE! FORGOT ABOUT THAT...: Once the safety car went away, we actually got a pretty decent race, with some heavy implications on the Driver's Championship. Lewis Hamilton was possessed by the spirit of Michael Schumacher and turned in a masterful wet-weather drive, winning by nearly 13 seconds. Fernando Alonso, on the other hand, spun and crashed out of the race around the 2/3rds mark, and now finds himself 12 points behind his teammate with two races to go, a nearly insurmountable gap. Felipe Massa is now out of contention altogether, and Kimi Raikkonen in third is hanging on by the skin of his teeth.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE: Heikki Koveleaininnie. Renault gambled in qualifying, setting both their cars up for a dry race. The gamble failed miserably, dropping both Heikki and Giancarlo Fisichella way down the grid, and seemingly costing them any shot at a podium. Nevertheless, Heikki, running no rear wing to speak of, and therefore suffering from a tremendous lack of grip, managed to run his Renault up into 2nd place. He then had to fight off his fellow Finnish racer Kimi Raikkonen in the last lap to stay in second. Considering that, by all rights, he should have been off-track a dozen times today, Heikki Koveleaininninininnie gets the DotR.

*TEAM OF THE RACE: Renault. Rain may be the great equalizer, but it also makes a mockery of all the plans and strategies that go into a F1 race. No team looked good today: McLaren had their first DNF, Ferrari peed one right down the leg of their firesuits by starting their cars on completely undriveable Intermediates, RedBull/Toro Rosso managed to go from podium finishes (and a possible win) to wrecking themselves (see the "MOOOO-oove" below)... the list goes on and on. But there was Renault, coming in 2nd and 5th with either an example of marvelous improvisation or incredible good luck, and their best race of the year.

*MOVE OF THE RACE: On the final lap of the race, Felipe Massa was frantically trying to get past Robert Kubica for sixth place. For the last third of the lap, Massa was either alongside, immediately behind, or just a smidge ahead of Kubica, but not past him. Then he basically played a game of chicken with the Pole, getting his tires so close to the BMW that Kubica could have counted the number of tread grooves on the Ferrari's 'full wet' rubbers. Kubica peeled off, then swung back in towards the red car. Massa, who'd spent the majority of the day off-track anyway and probably had a good feel for the asphalt runoff areas, intentionally blew the final turn. Probably screaming "Screw the rain" in Brazillian, he then buried the accelerator and outran Kubica to the finish line. We have no idea how the FIA Stewards won't investigate the racing activities there, but for now, Massa gets the Move of the Race for that startling sequence.

*MOOOOOOO-OOOVE OF THE RACE: Toro Rosso's Sebastian Vettel had it all today. Everything was going his way, from becoming the youngest driver in F1 history to lead a lap, to sitting pretty in 3rd place after Alonso pronged his McLaren, bringing out the safety car. Just ahead of him was Mark Webber in his RedBull, the junior team following the Big team. Both would have been the best finishes ever for their respective teams, and Webber had a distinct chance at a win (as Hamilton seemed to be having problems after being bumped earlier in the race). Then it all turned to dust, as somehow Vettel rammed into the rear of Webber's car, destroying the Red Bull's suspension and knocking him out of the race. Vettel's Toro Rosso limped back to the pits with it's front-left tire at a 45-degree angle to the direction of travel. From hero to goat in one second. The last shot we saw of Vettel was of him in the back of the Toro Rosso pits, helmeted head in his hands, his body language suggesting that he wanted to learn more about seppuku, in a hurry.

Honorable mention goes to the SuperAguri mechanic who decided to lean over and manually (i.e., with his fingers) open Takuma Sato's fuel cover after he had just had nearly a full tank put in, thereby causing this:

Fwoomp!

"Um... Taku? Pay no attention to that orange glow in your cockpit, and whatever you do, DON'T look in your mirrors..."

*DRIVER QUOTES OF THE RACE: will be posted Sunday afternoon.

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September 28, 2007

F1 QUALS: JAPAN!

As expected, the rain never stopped from P3 (which was actually cancelled, not just postponed as earlier reported), but the fog did lift enough for the medevac helicopter to be able to fly, so Quals were able to take place (though delayed about 10 minutes).

"Rain," as the hoary saying goes, "is the great equalizer." Just because it's hoary, however, doesn't mean it isn't true. Jenson Button got his Honda into Q3, much to everybody's surprise, and he'll be starting 7th. Given his success in Hungary last year, I think it's becoming quite clear that he's one of the best wet-weather drivers on the grid (and given his car this season, maybe THE best rain guy). The real shocker, though, was Sebastian Vettel driving his Toro Rosso into Q3 for the first time in team history. He'll be 9th tomorrow, an impressive performance for such an insipid vehicle.

The big news is that Lewis Hamilton pipped his teammate by .110 of a second to take pole. McLaren timed his final push perfectly, and he wound up the last driver on track when the timer hit zero. Combined with the wet-but-drying conditions, he was able to chase the least-wet line around the circuit, and managed to file off the rough spots he had had earlier in the session.

So, an all-McLaren front row. That means we've got an all-Ferrari second row, of course. Once the weather turned damp, it was pretty clear that the Red Team wouldn't be on pole; Ferrari this year has had a lot of problems in the wet... of course, that's relative to McLaren. It's Raikkonen 3, Massa 4, almost a half-second behind the polesitter.

The rest of the grid:
5 Nick Heidfeld BMW
6 Nico Rosberg Williams-Toyota
7 Jenson Button Honda
8 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault
9 Sebastian Vettel STR-Ferrari
10 Robert Kubica BMW
11 Giancarlo Fisichella Renault
12 Heikki Kovalainen Renault
13 David Coulthard Red Bull-Renault
14 Jarno Trulli Toyota
15 Vitantonio Liuzzi STR-Ferrari
16 Ralf Schumacher Toyota
17 Rubens Barrichello Honda
18 Alexander Wurz Williams-Toyota
19 Anthony Davidson Super Aguri-Honda
20 Adrian Sutil Spyker-Ferrari
21 Takuma Sato Super Aguri-Honda
22 Sakon Yamamoto Spyker-Ferrari

You'll note Ralf Schumacher up there at 16. He actually made it to Q2, but never turned a lap in that session. That's because, after Q1 had ended, he decided to 'pass' Sakon Yamamoto. Actually, he pulled the sort of manuever that earned Takuma "Suicide" Sato his nickname. I've watched his banzai dive repeatedly now, and I STILL can't figure out what he was trying to do. In a race, it would have been foolhardy but bearable. On the cooldown lap after Q1, it was just stupid. The only thing that may mitigate the circumstance is the weird failure of the Toyota's rear wing when the car's FRONT tire hit the Spyker. There may have been a rear suspension failure (that led to the collapse of the rear wing... we've seen that combination before) on the Toyota that prevented Schumacher from being able to whoa up before he embedded himself in the Spyker.

Finally, while I have no numbers to back it up (and with it being 230am as I type this, I'm not going to go search for them), I believe this is the worst qualifying performance for Takuma Sato in Japan ever. He usually seems to find another gear when he gets home... maybe he just really loved Suzuka?

Right. Race tomorrow night, at 11pm central time. I'm not sure when the F1 UPDATE! will be posted, as longtime friend and occasional commenter here at The Pond, Vaucaunson's Duck, will be here to watch along!

That's a 'good-news-bad-news' thing, unfortunately. It's good that he'll be here! It's bad that he's in Duckford, though, because his father, Dr John, had multi-bypass cardiac surgery earlier this week. Vauc and his wife, Geese, are in town to help with Dr John's recovery.

Dr John is a remarkable fellow, and I'm VERY glad he's doing well after the surgery.

More after the race, or as events warrant!

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PLAYOFFS, BABY!!!

Central Division CHAMPS!

Go Cubs, Go / Go Cubs, Go / Hey Chicago, Whaddya Say? / The Cubs Are Gonna Win Today!

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F1 QUALS: BREAKING NEWS!

The weather at Fuji International Speedway is, apparantly, great for ducks.


Not so good for helicopters or F1 cars, though. The morning practice was delayed by fog (by FIA rules, if the medevac helicopter can't fly, everything is put on hold until it can), then shortened. They're saying that quals might be held in the wet.


Now THAT'LL be interesting!


More after quals, around about 2am Central time.

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September 27, 2007

F1 Practice: FUJI!

First off, let's just get this out of the way right now:

Fuji ain't no Suzuka.

That being said, our first look at this new track (yes, yes, it's been around for ages, I know, but it's been 30 years, okay?) shows promise. There's some very clever bits to the course, like turns 10 & 11 (they aren't a chicane... they're two alternating turns very close to each other, but they aren't a chicane), which might be one of the trickier combinations in the sport. And while 100R, the big 180-degree righthander, isn't a patch on Suzuka's lamented 130R, it's still pretty keen. And that mile-long front straight is something special, particularly with turn 1, a tight right-hander that's similar to Shanghai's turn 1 (in that it just dives downhill when you get into it) tacked on at the end.

Team McLaren threw down the gauntlet in P2, then kicked anybody who dared to try and pick it up in the head, with Lewis Hamilton leading the way over his teammate, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, by a good .200 of a second. There was almost a half-second gap back to #3. The Ferraris seemed to be having a hard time of it, particularly Phil Massa, who seemed (to use some baseball terminology) to be a bit wild outside. Massa seemed to have some serious understeer going on, as at least twice (possibly more; I'm working from memory here) he found himself going cross-country at what I think was 100R (I could be wrong; I'm just as new to this track as everybody else).

Renault was surprisingly quick, at one point giving the Big Two a run for their money, though fading a bit when Ferrari & McLaren got serious. Still, they outpaced BMW, who is definitely the third-best team on the grid (interesting news from the LAT... since they're locked into 2nd in the Constructor's Championship, BMW has stopped developing their 2007 chassis altogether, and are now concentrating solely on next year's car).

There were a lot of four-wheel skids going on today as well... almost drifting-level slides. Just another example of how close the car-driver combination in F1 is to complete and catastrophic failure at all times. Or it just could be that the track is completely green.

I had high hopes for Fuji going into today (one could say 'mountainous' hopes), and while those epic heights weren't scaled, the track is certainly more than a molehill. Even before the race, I'm prepared to say it's a better track than France, Spain, Hungary and Brazil (of course, the Duckford Speedway and it's 1/5th-mile dirt oval is better than Interlagos). Afterwards, we'll see where it rates for sure.

There's some potential here, that's for sure.

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September 25, 2007

F1 On Speed: JAPAN!

I warned you weeks and weeks ago...

One of the greatest games ever!

That's right, Pole Position jokes all weekend! This year, of course, the Japanese Grand Prix is being held at Fuji International Speedway, home of the very first GP of Japan in 1976. However, 1977 was the last time the F1 circus visited the track in Shizuoka Prefecture.

Toyota purchased the track in 2000, and after three years of renovations and reprofiling, made it into their exclusive test track in 2005 (much like Suzuka is owned by Honda, by the way). For obvious reasons, that means that Toyota is pretty much the only team with any experience at all on the course, meaning that, for once, practices will actually MEAN something... and SPEED will be live with their coverage of practice from 1159pm Thursday night until 130am Friday morning! Finally, something watchable without having to wake up before the milkman!

Because of this lack of tracktime, amongst other reasons, Fuji is stacking up to be very interesting. The remodel did away with the huge sweeping righthander that led back to the straightway (replaced by all the fiddlybits on the left-hand side of the trackmap) that showed the true skill level of the Pole Position player (Wonderduck Sez: I was pretty darn good), one thing that stayed the same is the front straightaway... which is now the longest in F1, at 1.5 kilometers. Should make for some fun numbers in Qualifying, which starts at 1159pm Friday, and goes until 130am Saturday morning.

Break out the Suntory and Kirin Saturday night! At 11pm, the curtain goes up on the 2007 Grand Prix of Japan, and Speed'll have it live and plausibly in-person, Smarmy notwithstanding. For those of you weaklings for whom 11pm is too late, there's a replay at 330pm Sunday afternoon.

By the way, if you're wondering why it's called Fuji International Speedway, here's a clue:

Believe it or not, those are the cheap seats.

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September 23, 2007

John Force Injured, But Okay

Steven's second-most-favorite driver, John Force, suffered a serious accident in today's Fall Nationals at Ennis, Texas.

He had just finished a race against Kenny Bernstein when Bernstein's car appeared to clip the final timing cone. The cone was launched into the side of Force's car, which then split apart. The back half, with Force in it, slammed into the wall when the braking chute was released. The front half snapped across the track and collected Bernstein's car, who escaped with only minor injuries.

Force broke his left ankle and wrist, and had a 'severe abrasion' on his right knee. I think it's safe to say that he's pretty lucky. Please note that the dramatic footage of the crash ISN'T where Force is. The camera follows the wrong part of the car... just keep an eye on the chute.

Of course, the cars are designed to split apart in case of an crash, so as to seperate the engine from the driver. But, and this is important to note, there wasn't a crash in this case UNTIL the car split apart. Very odd indeed.

Steven's favorite driver, Ashley Force, is fine... and you can take that any way you want, wink wink nudge nudge.

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September 22, 2007

Where Ya Been, Wonderduck? (and a Duck In Anime, too)

Actually, a better question might be "where's your boss been, Wonderduck?"

He got married a couple of weeks ago, and has been off on his honeymoon... leaving me the only person with keys/alarm code/etc etc etc for the Duck U. Bookstore, as well as the only full-timer.

In the past two weeks, I've worked around about 110 hours, 10 out of 12 days, and so on. Not too terribly bad, until you realize that about half of the hours were spent ALONE, with no staff to help.

So I've had very little time to watch much of anything, be it Anime, F1, or whatever. "Normal" blogging will resume soon.

Now for one of my favorite 'ducks in anime' pictures of all time... because it's so moving:
Alone... so alone... in the dark... *snif*

From Hidamari Sketch, some episode that I didn't keep track of.

Darn it, when will you humans realize that DUCKS ARE PEOPLE TOO? You can't just leave one of us in the dark, alone, like this!

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September 20, 2007

HAIL PIXY!!!

Woo!!!  WOOO!!!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, PIXY!!!

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September 18, 2007

Ducks In Anime: Death & Rebirth!

Head Duck

from Hayate no Gotoku!, ep18.

Y'know, this picture fairly screams for a caption contest... my entry is below, leave yours in the comments! more...

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September 17, 2007

Lucky Star OP, Cheer Style!

I guess it's from the 24th and final episode of Lucky Star... Enjoy!

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September 16, 2007

F1 UPDATE!: SPA Driver Quotes!

"mmrmmrrm mrmblm heh mrmmmrb Spa mrmmmrb ha." - Kimi Raikkonen

"We win. Everybody else loses. And we've got the FIA in our pocket. Life is good." - Felipe Massa

"Snotnosed punk trying to pass me at the start? Guess I showed him who's boss." - Fernando Alonso

"I just feel for someone that's always complaining about people doing unfair maneuvers, and everyone wanting to be fair and someone I look up to, and he has gone and swiped me and pushed me as wide as he could. I was just really lucky there was a run-off area so I could take that." - Lewis Hamilton (note: real quote)

"My usual, lonely, race. Couldn't reach the top 4, wasn't threatened by 6th place, just a pleasant Sunday drive." - Grizzly Nick Heidfeld

"Next time I'll make things more interesting, Nick." - Nico Rosberg

"today my thoughts are of course with the McRae family and the terrible tragedy that happened yesterday.” - Mark Webber (note: real quote)

“It felt like I drove half of the race with my mirrors today..." - Heikki Koveleininnie (note: real quote. Next time, try driving with the steering wheel, Heikki.)

"I drove with my steering wheel, look where it got me." - Robert Kubica

"I had a great race, I finished 10th, and I got a callback for an interview at the Hamburg McDonalds tomorrow! I'm so happy!" - Ralf Schumacher

"Hi, I'm Jarno Trulli, and I can't get off the starting line to save my life." - Jarno Trulli

"It was a job well done apart from a problem with the right front wheel during the pit stop which cost me a few seconds, that meant I could not fight with Button. But he retired anyway.” - Vitantonio Liuzzi (note: real quote)

"I spend the entire season fighting SuperAguri. I finally get away from them, but now I'm fighting with Spyker? I hate my miserable life." - Rubens Barrichello

"Hi, Rubens! Gosh, it's good to see you here in the midpack! Wow, the air is thin up this high..." - Adrian Sutil

"Two weeks until I'm back in Japan... and I can get some good sushi." - Takuma Sato

"It was good to see our strategy pay off." - Ant Davidson (note: real quote. Your strategy called for you to end up sixteenth, Ant?)

"...but I wasn't last." - Sakon Yamamoto

"It's always disappointing to retire from a race but it was six laps less pain as the car was so difficult to drive. And there was a rabid wombat in the cockpit with me." - Jensen Button

"RARRRGH... WURZ SMASH." - Man-mountain Wurz

"I’m shocked and saddened to hear of the loss to the McRae family, of father and son, and obviously we must acknowledge the other family that were on board the helicopter as well. Colin was a remarkable man who wore his heart on this sleeve and was the epitome of a racer; fearless and attacking, yet he remained true to his roots and grounded despite the international fame and recognition that he achieved. The world is a sorrier place without him.” - David Coulthard's Chin, fellow Scotsman

"I can't turn right, and it's worse if I go faster. Can I come home now?" - Sebastian Vettel

"AIEE. Not a real crash, but when the brakes disappear, it sure FEELS bad." - Giancarlo Fisichella

So that's it for Spa. Next up, the completely unknown Fuji Speedway in Japan... expect the Pole Position jokes to fly fast and furious!

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F1 UPDATE!: SPA!

Crepe.

*FERRARI WINS: ...and it wasn't even close. The only drama was "would Massa's car blow up before the start?" As they sat there, waiting for the lights to go green, Phil's Ferrari started to smoke like a forest fire. All was well, though, and the two Ferraris ran away and hid.

*ALONSO BEATS HAMILTON: ...after shoving him off the track in the first turn. Thanks to the reprofiling of the course, it didn't hurt Lewis much (lots of asphalt runoff there, opposed to gravel like 2005), but it's showing what Alonso's willing to do to win. After the race, Hamilton flat out said that he thinks Alonso tried to wreck him. He might be right, but, Lewis? "Shut up and drive."

*DRIVER OF THE RACE: Kimi Raikkonen. Was never challenged, never put a wheel wrong, basically drove the perfect race, and won his third consecutive F1 race at the Swimming Pool. May very well have, finally, earned himself the #1 driver status on his team.

*TEAM OF THE RACE: Ferrari. Honorable mention goes to Spyker, for their success with Adrian Sutil getting as high as 12th at one point. God, this is galling.

*MOVE OF THE RACE: On lap 3, Mark Webber tailed Heikki Kovaleinninie through Eau Rouge and pulled even Raidillon. Racing side-by-side up to Les Combes, he pinned the Renault against the right side of the course, then, at the last moment, dove cross-track into the racing line just in time for braking. Of course, 'Ninnie couldn't do anything but brake hard and lose the spot. Lovely job, Webbo!

*MOOOOOOO-OOVE OF THE RACE: Adrian Sutil took his Spyker for a fun offroad adventure, popping a wheelie out of Eau Rouge as he bounded across the grass. Still ended up 14th, so it didn't hurt him... a weak example of Bovine Behavior, but he still wins the Moooo-oove.

*DRIVER QUOTES OF THE RACE: ...are delayed until later tonight.

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September 15, 2007

F1 Quals: SPA!

There is no justice in the world. Ferrari takes their first front row of the season, Raikkonen and Massa. Alonso then beat Hamilton to comprise the second row. Robert Kubica qualified 5th, but an engine change after Saturday practice means he'll be bumped 10 spots. Rosberg and Grizzly Nick Heidfeld were sixth and seventh, with Mark Webber, Jarno Trulli and Heikki Koveleinninnie rounding out the top 10.

I hate to say this, but I was actually cheering for a Spyker today. Q1 ended with a completely ridiculous flurry of activity that started with Adrian Sutil jumping from 22nd to 12th with about a minute left. Generally, that's a safe enough margin from the cutoff line with that little time remaining, but... (say it with me):

/300 on
This. IS. SPA.
/300 off

Spa is the longest circuit on the tour, however, taking around 1m48s to do a lap... and there were a LOT of cars on track. Sutil ended up 20th after all the drivers had finished their hot laps, and it seemed like everybody south of 6th place shifted position. Completely crazy, even the L.A.T. couldn't keep up with it all.

In Q2, however, came the most frightening thing if you want a demolishing of Ferrari on Sunday. Kimi Raikkonen turned in the fastest lap of The Swimming Pool ever, a blistering 1:45:007 for an AVERAGE speed of about 145mph. On a course with a 45mph hairpin, no less!

At least we got the joy of seeing Alonso spin in Q3, and Massa look like he wasn't going to get a lap in during Q1, when the Ferrari engineers suddenly panic-dove for the rear of his car with 7 minutes to go. In slightly over two minutes, they tore the rear of his car off, fixed whatever wasn't working, replaced the bodywork, and away he went. Dammit.

The rest of the grid:
11. Giancarlo Fisichella Italy Renault 1:46.603
12. Ralf Schumacher Germany Toyota 1:46.618
13. David Coulthard Britain Red Bull-Renault 1:46.800
14. Jenson Button Britain Honda 1:46.955
15. Vitantonio Liuzzi Italy Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:47.115
16. Alexander Wurz Austria Williams-Toyota 1:47.394
17. Sebastian Vettel Germany Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:47.581
18. Rubens Barrichello Brazil Honda 1:47.954
19. Takuma Sato Japan Super Aguri-Honda 1:47.980
20. Adrian Sutil Germany Spyker-Ferrari 1:48.044
21. Anthony Davidson Britain Super Aguri-Honda 1:48.199
22. Sakon Yamamoto Japan Spyker-Ferrari 1:49.577

See you after the race.

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September 14, 2007

F1 Practice: SPA!

There's some sign of cosmic justice out there in the universe, as the two McLarens were fastest in P2 today, with Alonso pipping Hamilton. Further, Phil Massa wound up gently pranging himself in P1.

But none of the McLaren bigwigs were there to see it, as they were still back in Paris, waiting for one or another of the WMSC guillotines to get free. The hot rumor (brought to us by Peter "Smarmy" Windsor, who, as much as it pains me to say it, is staggeringly well-connected and probably perfect for the job he does) is that Fernando Alonso attempted to blackmail his own team with the Stepneygate e-mails.

His asking price? The clear deliniation of himself as McLaren's number 1 driver (meaning that Hamilton would NOT challenge for wins, and instead back off when in front, a la the Ferrari/Michael Schumacher era), and/or the immediate demotion of Lewis Hamilton to test driver outright.

IF true, and that's a very big if, then two thoughts immediately leap to mind:
1) Fernando Alonso is frickin' insane; and
B) Ron Dennis has the patience of a saint.
Most every team on the planet would can Alonso's @$$ if that's the way it worked out, and more power to them, here, let me hold that torch for you.

The full FIA judgement can be found HERE. The interesting bits begin in section 3.5, when the contents of the e-mails from Pete Rose and Alonso are revealed. Do read the report; from section 3 on, it's actually quite interesting.

My favorite part is Section 8 (that's appropriate, considering the craziness going on):

8.4 McLaren has made detailed submissions indicating that none of the information received enhanced the McLaren car. McLaren has suggested to the WMSC that unless "actual use" and a demonstrated and itemised performance advantage can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt (i.e. to a criminal law standard of proof), the WMSC is not permitted at law to impose a penalty.

8.5 The WMSC rejects this suggestion. The WMSC has full jurisdiction to apply Article 151(c) and stresses that it is not necessary for it to demonstrate that any confidential Ferrari information was directly copied by McLaren or put to direct use in the McLaren car to justify a finding that Article 151(c) was breached and/or that a penalty is merited. Nor does the WMSC need to show that any information improperly held led to any specifically identified sporting advantage, or indeed any advantage at all. Rather, the WMSC is entitled to treat possession of another team's information as an offence meriting a penalty on its own if it so chooses. (emphasis mine)

Note that bold line carefully. The WMSC is saying, in effect, that it didn't and couldn't find anything that McLaren took advantage of in the building or running of the MP4-22, but that they didn't have to because they're the WMSC, and shut up and take it.

The McLaren legal team was screaming to high heaven yesterday, saying that the WMSC went into the meeting with a penalty in mind, "now lets figure out how to hit them with it." The truly disturbing part of it all is the early report leaked to a website (that shall remain unlinked) declaring that McLaren was to be totally excluded from 2007 AND 2008. That report apparantly came from a WMSC member, DURING DELIBERATIONS.

That's the same as a jury member saying "he's guilty, and we're gonna hang him" before all the evidence is revealed... which in an US court of law would at LEAST get the juror kicked off, and more likely would cause a mistrial.

By the way, did you wonder where the $100million is going? Here's a hint: it's probably not going to charity.

More after quals.

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September 13, 2007

F1 UPDATE!: FIA Nukes McLaren

*snap* *BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!*

The FIA, following today's WMSC hearing, dropped a very large nuke on Team McLaren, stripping the team's Constructor's Championship points and fining them $100 million (which is to be reduced by all prize monies won this year).

Signifigantly, McLaren was NOT excluded from the 2007 Constructor's Championship, they just had their points zeroed and they will not be allowed to score any in the next four races. This is a subtle point, but it prevents the team from automatically losing their sponsorship contracts. Can't imagine that companies like Vodafone will be pleased, though.

The drivers were NOT stripped of their points, and will be allowed to earn Driver's Championship points in the last four races.

Ferrari has stated that they are "that the truth has now emerged." Mercedes, McLaren's partner, has expressed dismay at the penalty. BMW has said that they don't want 2nd place this way. McLaren's press release was defiant:
The most important thing is that we will be going motor racing this weekend, the rest of the season and every season. This means that our drivers can continue to compete for the World Championship. However having been at the hearing today (we) do not accept that we deserved to be penalised in this way.

In 2006, Business F1 magazine said that McLaren had the largest budget in the sport, spending at least $400 million. Their fine of $100m is larger than the 2006 budgets of SuperAguri (est. $95m), Midland (now Spyker, $76m), or Toro Rosso ($66m).

Now that we've covered the details, click below for F1 UPDATE!'s analysis. more...

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September 11, 2007

F1 ON SPEED!

I do love this time of season. Three races in four weeks, including two back to back... and this year, they're on two classic tracks, too.

Last week, of course, was Monza, the Magic Track. This time around, though, we come to the small town of Francorchamps for the Grand Prix of Belgium... or, as it's more commonly known around these parts, Spa-Francopants and the Swimming Pool.

More than any other track on the calendar, Spa-Francoamerican is synonymous with 'rain'. It's quite common for one part of the track to be sunny and dry, and another to be in the middle of a torrential downpour. As you can guess, this causes no small amount of angst to the drivers, who are unanimous in their praise for the track anyway.

But no mention of the Swimming Pool would be complete without mentioning that it's the home of one of F1's legendary turns: Eau Rouge. In the past, it took guts and nerves of steel to go into the twisty, climbing, blind-exit turn flat-out and keep the accelerator nailed to the floor... in fact, that was the best way to take Eau Rouge, because it kept the downforce on.

Today, it's slightly less gutwrenching due to the natural downforce created by all the swoopy bits on today's F1 cars, but it's still the sign of a brave driver to nail his foot to the floor going through Eau Rouge. In 1999, Jacques Villeneuve and Ricardo Zonta, BAR-Honda teammates, had amazing wrecks in qualifying, showing the danger inherent in the corner... and bringing rise to the legend that the BAR-Honda team principal told Zonta "Jacques is the best there is at Eau Rouge, just do what he does."

Of course, Spa-Francoplatz was off the calendar last year due to renovations to the pit lane that were not completed in time. As a result of the pit lane work, the front straight is now longer, with the last turn being moved back, and the first turn being moved forward. Should make for a great sprint at the start this year!

Of course, Spa was not always the track it is now. Back in the old days, Spa was a 10-mile long triangular beast that blasted down public roads. It was also a most dangerous creature that often resulted in spectator deaths. In 1966, Jackie Stewart's car ended up in some poor sod's basement. During the 24 Hours of Spa in 1973, three drivers were killed, and Hans-Joachim Stuck shouted to his co-driver Jochen Mass during a pitstop that he should "look out for body parts at the Masta Kink". Mass arrived there expecting to see bits of car all over the road but was appalled to discover it was in fact bits of a marshal. This is the Spa track shown in the movie Grand Prix, by the way.

So SPEED's coverage of the 2007 Belgian Grand Prix begins on Friday morning, from 7am to 830am, with Practice Two live!

Saturday brings us the Quals live from 7am to 830am.

The Race is Sunday, with live coverage from 630am to 9am.

This is one of those races that Ferrari should be able to run away with... but we said the same about Monza, so who really knows? McLaren may very well dominate... but there's the awful spectre of Thursday's meeting dangling above our heads. McLaren may not be allowed to show up.

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September 10, 2007

I sing the praises of Minnesota!

Steven asks if "Minneapolis is a weirdness magnet".

The answer is an unqualified YES.

I lived in Minnesota for two years, back when I was in grad school. A better place I cannot imagine. Oh, sure, the snow could be a little much (like the 27-1/2" we got in twelve hours... ON HALLOWEEN), and it can get a bit cold (like the week it never got above -10 F, and one night the windchills were -100 F and the police were on the radio stations saying "don't go outside, you will die."), but Minnesota is, above all else, normal.

It's a wonderful, laid-back state. When the register operator at the Hy-Vee on Riverfront asked "How are you", she was honestly wondering how you were.

A place where someone you knew only by sight would give you a scarf, because they saw you didn't have one.

A place where the strippers in Mettler's were friendly, and not because you had money.

It's the place that A Prairie Home Companion had to jazz up to be interesting.

It's the only place in the world where macaroni & cheese is considered "pasta" unironically.

Minnesota IS normalcy objectified. The Twin Cities, on the other hand, is about as sane as San Francisco. The only place in the world that they'd consider the Metrodome (if you don't know what the Metrodome looks like, imagine the Michelin Man's coffin as seen from the side) a suitable place for a ballpark. Minneapolis-St. Paul is where the 'weirdos' from the rest of the state go.

But yet, even they are relatively normal. Oh, the strangest people in the TCs would be strange anywhere, but most of the oddballs would be small-fry in Chicago, or Seattle, or New York, or (god help us) Los Angeles.

The only reason the stories Steven mentions are considered particularly odd is because they happened in Minneapolis. You think toe-sucking muggers aren't a dime a dozen in New York? Congresscritters proposition strangers in a bathroom every day in Washington!

No, it's only the low level of oddness in Minnesota that makes these events strange.

Minnesota: Where 'bland' is a flavor... and I love it.

UPDATE: They caught the toe-sucking mugger from Steve's post... and the Smoking Gun was there (NSF liquid refreshment in mouth). Seriously.

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September 09, 2007

F1 UPDATE!: ITALY!

The tifosi are weeping tonight... let's just get right to it, shall we?

*WHEN IS A PODIUM FINISH BAD?: When you lose 2nd place with 9 laps to go, and end up on the last step of the podium, that's when. The legendary bulletproof Ferrari is gone, replaced by a fragile beast that Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen don't fully trust. Massa retired his car on lap 10 after feeling "something wrong" with the rear, possibly the same thing that caused Kimi's accident in practice. Raikkonen looked tenetive and cautious all day, and cost him 2nd place. Ferrari's only hope for either championship now appears to be McLaren's total exclusion from the season.

*McLAREN DOMINANT: In contrast, McLaren's drivers took their cars and threw them around the track with total abandon, knowing that they could get away with it. The new curbs at Monza, so high and deep that some teams (Toyota and Ferrari in particular) avoided using them as much as possible, were mere bumps to McLaren. Throw in their raw straightaway speed and fantastic cornering abilities, and the Glare With Wheels just owned Ferrari's home track today... a low-downforce style of track that the Ferrari is supposedly designed for.

*DIRTY TRICKS: Just a few hours before racetime, the Italian police arrived at the McLaren paddock and informed Ron Dennis (team principal) and selected others that they were being investigated in regards to the Stepneygate scandal. Even though they've been there since Wednesday and could have served them at any time, they chose Sunday morning. Gee, think the Boys In Red had anything to do with that, maybe thinking that their rivals would be rattled?

*DRIVER OF THE RACE: Kimi Raikkonen. Driving with an injured neck that prevented him from controlling his head movements in the turns and under braking, running a car that threw him into the wall for no reason (and caused his teammate to retire from the race), Raikkonen still managed to take 3rd place, and looked to take 2nd until late. All this while carrying a large load of fuel to run a 1-stop strategy. Not the 'charge from 22nd' style of drive, but still an impressive performance, and the lone bright spot for Ferrari this weekend.

*TEAM OF THE RACE: McLaren. Not just because they finished 1-2, with Alonso nearly a half-minute ahead of Raikkonen, but because of all the crap they've had to deal with this season. The Stewards slapped them with a horrible penalty in Hungary, they were fined after Turkey, they've got a sword dangling over their head, and their drivers want to kill each other... yet they're running away with both championships. Now THAT'S a performance.

*MOVE OF THE RACE: On lap 40, Lewis Hamilton stopped for the last time, exiting the pits behind Kimi Raikkonen, who was running a 1-stop strategy. He resumed the race some handful of seconds behind, and while it looked like he might be able to catch up in the 13 laps remaining, it'd take a miracle to get past him in the remaining time. THREE LAPS LATER, Hamilton was maybe 50 yards behind Raikkonen heading into turn one... too far back to make a move, surely. So Lewis tries it anyway, brakes about as late as humanly possible (and maybe beyond), and despite Kimi's attempt to block, still manages to sneak through and into 2nd place. Just a killer move, and possibly THE pass of the season, for all the importance riding on it. Honorable mention to Jensen Button and Nico Rosberg for their duel on lap 21, passing and repassing each other thru three turns.

*MOOOOO-OOVE OF THE RACE: Celebrating that which makes the best drivers in the world look like cud-crunching cows, the Moooooo-oove is an award given for the mistake that makes F1 look like the Three Stooges. Today's award is given, not to a driver, but to the front jackman of BMW-Sauber. On Robert Kubica's first stop from high in the standings, the jackman somehow managed to get his implement of destruction jammed under the nose. It took two men yanking on it, plus another three lifting the car, to get the jack free, costing Kubica 10 seconds extra and dropping him waaaaay back. That he was able to finish 5th is a miracle. Well done, un-named pitcrewman!

*DRIVER QUOTES OF THE RACE: more...

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