April 29, 2009

Random Anime Picture #43: Epic Cuteness

-Chrome-shelled Regios, ep06

How not to open a letter.

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McLaren 'Liargate' Resolution

A suspended three-race ban.  If, in the course of the next 12 months, McLaren is caught lying to the stewards again, or more details come to light regarding the events surrounding the Australian Grand Prix, the ban will be applied.

That's it, that's all.  Nothing to see here, move along.


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April 28, 2009

What's Wonderduck Watching? Spring 2009

So after a period of about six weeks where I watched practically no anime whatsoever, I marathoned the 10-year old series Bubblegum Crisis 2040, watching the 26 episodes in three nights.  Suddenly, I found myself wanting to watch anime again... it's a miracle!

"Well, sure, Wonderduck. That's great, but a decade-old show?  What are you watching this season?"

Five shows, actually.


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April 26, 2009

Ducks In Anime: The Light Music Edition

- K-On!, ep04

I'm of two minds of this show.  One part of me likes it quite a bit... it's fluffy entertainment that requires no effort whatsoever from the watcher.  The other part, however, is just annoyed by it all.  In a way, it reminds me of the other show Kyoto Animation made in this style, Lucky Star.  The problem is that after the first three episodes, LS took off like a SR-71 kicking in the afterburners and became something special.  K-On! is showing no signs of doing so after four.

Sure, if you like slice-of-life shows, it's worth watching, but it just feels like there could be so much more here.  I'll keep up with it, but I'm not holding my breath waiting for "magic time".

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F1 Update!: Bahrain 2009!

For the diehard F1 fan, this was an interesting race.  For the casual fan, it would have been dull as dishwater.  For the F1 writer, it was a practically-impossible-to-write-about race.  THIS is your F1 Update! for the Grand Prix of Bahrain!

*RIGHT ON THE BUTTON:  On a day where his pit wall was imploring him to baby the engine due to the intense heat, dialing back the revs and finding clean air whenever possible, Jenson Button still managed to blow the rest of the field off the track, winning by 7.1 seconds over the RB5 of Sebastian Vettel.  That gap halved from nearly 15 seconds over the last few laps, not because Vettel was driving so much better than the BrawnGP car, but because Button knew he had the race locked up unless he had a breakdown, so he dialed it back even farther.  After the first handful of laps, however, there was very little drama to be found in Button's win.  At a race where everybody expected the KERS-enhanced cars to be dominant, Jenson made it three wins out of four.

*LEFT AT THE STATION:  Toyota had at least a passing chance for their maiden victory today, both cars starting on the front row and the TF109 looking quick all weekend.  Things would have to break their way, yes, particularly when it was announced that they were running light on fuel, but the capability was there.  To give the team credit, they tried an interesting strategy, using the less-capable medium compound tire in the middle stint while everybody else was using the supersofts.  While the harder tire was about a second per lap slower, they'd be able to use the softer tire at the end when everybody else was on the worse rubber and make up the time.  Except it didn't work out that way.  Timo Glock couldn't pass anybody, finishing seventh, and Jarno Trulli couldn't catch up to the Big Two on his way to a third-place podium finish.  Certainly not a horrible end result, but it could have been so much better...

*UP, UP, AND AWAY:  Kimi Raikkonen finished sixth, 42 seconds behind the winner.  Why this is being mentioned is because the three points earned were Ferrari's first of the season.  The tifosi must be partying in the streets of Maranello tonight.

*DOWN ON THE CORNER:  Kazoo Nakajima retired from the race on lap 48 with problems with his oil pressure.  That was the only car the BMW-Sauber tandem of Robert Kubica (18th) and Grizzly Nick Heidfeld (19th) beat today.  What has happened with this team?  From legitimate contenders to red-headed stepchildren in one off-season... simply unbelievable.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Other than having to worry about his car failing him, Jenson Button drove a completely worry-free race.  It was worry-free because he also drove what could be called a perfect race, never a wheel wrong.  It made for dull viewing, but it was quite deserving of the DotR award.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  While we're giving this one to BrawnGP for their 1st/5th outcome, it's with the caveat that switching Rubens Barrichello from a two-stop to a three-stop strategy in the middle of the race may have cost him a couple of places at the end.  While doing so got him out of traffic and got him into an empty section of track where he could rip off some blistering laps, one gets the feeling that it was the first time they've shown a lack of confidence all season, either in the car or the driver.

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  At the start of the race, Lewis Hamilton served notice that in his hands, the McLaren was going to be a force to be reckoned with the rest of the season by moving from fifth on the grid to third and challenging Jarno Trulli for second.  While that gamble didn't succeed, it left him in a position to decide exactly what he wanted to do and when he wanted to do it.  It also left Jenson Button behind a decidedly slower car that was equipped with the ultimate pass defense mechanism (KERS) and driven by a world champion that really hates being passed for any reason.  Button didn't have a whole bunch of time before the two Toyotas would rocket off into the desert, leaving him stuck behind the Glare With Wheels.  Just as lap 1 ended, Button was tucked behind Hamilton and stayed there until the two reached the braking zone for Turn 1, when he zipped inside, held off on braking as late as he could, then seemingly threw an anchor out of the cockpit.  He practically slammed to a halt, made the turn cleanly, then accelerated off after the Toyotas, leaving a stunned Hamilton behind like he was driving a Minardi, not a McLaren.  Button may very well have won the race right there, making this the clear MotR.

*MOOOOOOOOO-OOOVE OF THE RACE:  Instead of going to a driver this week, the Moooooooo-ooove will be going to a team.  Toyota decided to go all-in on their gamble with tire strategy, sending both cars out on their second stints on the harder, slower, rubber.  Both cars immediately tumbled down the running order as teams on the softer tires ran away and hid from them, an outcome that was as unfortunate as it was predictable.  Would it have been SO hard, Toyota, to put one car on Hards and the other on Softs, thereby keeping one of them in touch with the frontrunners?  You might have thrown a win away with that move... but, in consolation, you did earn a Moooooooooo-ooove!



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April 25, 2009

F1 Quals: Bahrain 2009!

Well, that was unexpected!  That was also, paradoxically, unsurprising in this Bizarro Season of F1.  Let's take a look at the grid for the Grand Prix of Bahrain:

Pos Driver Team Q1Q2Q3
1 Jarno Trulli Toyota 1:32.779  
2 Timo Glockenspiel Toyota 1:33.165 1:32.613 1:33.712
3 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 1:32.680 1:32.474 1:34.015
4 Jenson Button Brawn-Mercedes 1:32.978 1:32.842 1:34.044
5 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:32.851 1:32.877 1:34.196
6 Rubens Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes 1:33.116 1:32.842 1:34.239
7 HWMNBN Renault 1:33.627 1:32.860 1:34.578
8 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:33.297 1:33.014 1:34.818
9 Nico Rosberg Williams-Toyota 1:33.672 1:33.166 1:35.134
10 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:33.117 1:32.827 1:35.380
11 Heikki Kovalaineninnie McLaren-Mercedes 1:33.479 1:33.242
12 Kazoo Nakajima Williams-Toyota 1:33.221 1:33.348
13 Robert Kubica BMW Sauber 1:33.495 1:33.487
14 Nick Heidfeld BMW Sauber 1:33.377 1:33.562
15 Nelson Piquet Jr
Renault 1:33.608 1:33.941
16 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:33.722

17 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 1:33.753

18 Giancarlo Fisichella Force India-Mercedes 1:33.910

19 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 1:34.038

20 SeaBass STR-Ferrari 1:34.159

Yes, that's right, your eyes are not deceiving you... an all-Toyota front row, a first for the Japanese team.  It turns out that both cars are running light on fuel, with nearly 20kgs less than the RB5 of Sebastian Vettel, who has a whisker more than both Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton.  Still, it's a great result for Trulli who, to be frank, stunk in China. 

Still, it looks to me like it'll be a battle between Vettel and Button when the lights go out Sunday.  One can't count out the Ferraris, however: Raikkonen has more fuel onboard than anybody save Rosberg, and Massa has just a bit less than Kimi.

One thing to watch out for, though, is heat-related failures on race day.  The pit walls were constantly telling their drivers to "keep the engine cool, don't push it too hard" all day.  That won't be easy to do come the race, and the Toyotas in particular seemed to be having problems.  Much of the rear bodywork by their exhausts had gone from bright white to dull brown in a way that suggests scorching.  While it's not uncommon for that sort of thing to occur, the amount that it was happening on the TF109 was troublesome.

Throw in two seperate fuel fires on Robert Kubica's BMW in Q2, likely caused by the heat, and you've got what might be a dangerous situation brewing.

In other news, Adrian Sutil was penalized for blocking Mark Webber, and has been dropped to 19th. 

This should be quite the exciting race to watch, power-outages and thunderstorms not withstanding.  None of this delay would have occured if I hadn't've had to work at the Duck U. Bookstore today, but so it goes... cross your fingers and see you Sunday for the F1U!

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Bahrain Quals Report Delayed Due To Weather

A thunderstorm-caused power outage at Pond Central aborted the recording of this mornings Qual session, which I have just now discovered (345pm).

So, I'm going to the backup plan and will have the report up this evening.  Please, no spoilers!

Picture unrelated.

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April 24, 2009

F1 Practice: Bahrain 2009!

Little interesting action today in Bahrain.  Instead, the story was weather-related, or more correctly, weather-that's-coming-related.

You see, the ambient air temps at the track were pushing 100oF., with no humidity to speak of and also no clouds.  As a result, the tarmac was a blistering 120oF., and that was expected to spiral upwards as the day went on.  This was affecting the two tire compounds (supersoft and medium) in different ways: the mediums were taking five laps or more to get warm, for no reason that anybody could tell.  The supersofts, on the other hand, were at their optimum operational temperature practically before the car reached the end of the pitlane.

So, supersofts look to be the way to go, right?  Well, not quite. They heated up quickly, gripped really hard... and then got too hot and lost effectiveness.  The Legendary Announce Team mentioned that it's just going to get hotter as the weekend goes on, which doesn't bode well for the lifespan of the supersofts.  The other problem for both tires is sand.  When the tires gets up to running temp, the rubber becomes very soft and pliant... practically on the verge of melting if you ask David Hobbes, LAT "color guy."  However, when a car gets offline (which was happening a lot today), it has to drive through the fine layer of sand that's everywhere in Bahrain... which then sticks and practically bonds to the hot rubber.  The result is either like driving on sandpaper (good result) or ice (bad result)... and guess which is more likely.

And on Sunday, they're predicting clear skies, hot temperatures... and high winds.  All of which means sandstorms, and lord only knows what'll happen then.  Will they race in a sand cloud?  Sit in the garages until it blows over?  Turn laps on camels?  Can we just have a NORMAL race for once?  Please?

In other news, Nelson Piquet Jr continued his March To Unemployment today by somehow managing to break his front wing without actually hitting anything or anybody.

This occurred near the pit-in, and his engineer told him to come in.  Instead he continued blithely on, paying no heed, la dee dah.  Admittedly, he probably couldn't see the sparks (the driver can't actually see his front wing from his spot in the cockpit), but he MUST have noticed the awful grinding sound, right?  Or the loss of grip?  After getting a new nose, he immediately progressed on to spinning his Renault on what seemed like every lap.

Finally, in their sixty years of Formula 1 running, Ferrari has never opened the season without scoring a point in the first four races.  Yet that's what they're looking at this weekend, and to be blunt, they were slow today.  You can't trust results in practice, but you CAN trust both drivers saying, in effect, the car is bad in Bahrain.  Look for some anti-Ferrari history to be made this weekend.

See you for Quals!

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"Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand NOWWW... the starting lineup... for YOUR..."

The year is 1997.

Simply the greatest sports introduction ever.  Many have tried to copy it, including the Bulls themselves, but nothing really comes close.  The reason for that is quite clear: one man, and it's not Michael Jordan.

The intro wouldn't be (and isn't) the same without Ray Clay, the PA announcer, the unsung hero of the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the '90s.  Just watching that clip sends shivers up my spine.

Don't get me wrong: today, the video package is better, the effects are better now (and Benny the Bull waving the flag at center court is cool as heck), but without that voice, it's just not even close.

No, I don't have a point, why do you ask?

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April 23, 2009


Today is the International Day of the Book.  It is also St George's Day in England, Spain and other countries.  Oleg Penkovsky was born today in 1919. In 1957, Kenji Kawai was born.  New Coke debuted on April 23rd, 1985.  The zoetrope was patented today in 1867.

And in some hospital in Chicago in 1968, I was hatched and unleashed upon an unsuspecting world. 

Merciful heavens... 41.  I'm stunned.

UPDATE: Birthday candles...

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April 21, 2009

F1 On SPEED!: Bahrain 2009!

After two very wet races, we find ourselves headed to the island kingdom of Bahrain, home of the Bahrain International Circuit.  Situated in the middle of a desert, at one point there were fears that blowing sand would disrupt any race scheduled there.  This problem has mostly been solved by the application of an adhesive over the desert in the vicinity of the track beforehand.

I say mostly since a rogue sandstorm or two can cause havoc, as we saw during off-season testing.  Still, while nothing will prevent some sand from getting on the circuit, generally it's not much of a problem anymore.  Let us take a look at the course, shall we?

Yep, it's another Hermann Tilke circuit, the third in a row.  This one, though, isn't quite as bad as the others for passing.  It's still not good, mind you, but it's not bad.  It IS the safest circuit on the calendar, due to the huge run-off areas (building in a desert does have some advantages... and natural sand traps, too!) and an ultramodern medical station to boot.  Like other Tilke designs, there are distinct differences between the high-speed and "technical" sectors, though they aren't quite as dramatic as at his other designs.  In fact, if there was ever a course where KERS will make a difference, it's this one.  There's enough room between turns in sector two (red) to allow a driver to have free rein over where he can use the boost button.

All in all, a less-bland modern circuit than some others.  Assuming we don't have rain (ahem) or sand, I'd expect the Brawns to show their... um... brawn on this track, with the Toyotas and Red Bull not out of the picture.

Still and all, there's every chance in the world that some other team will pop up and make a move this year.  That's why they actually hold the race, and why SPEED will be bringing it to us live as usual!

Coverage begins on Friday, April 24th, from 6am to 740am, with live coverage of Practice 2.  Saturday brings us Quals from 6am to 730am.  Sunday, from 630am to 9am, is the actual Grand Prix of Bahrain, with no replay scheduled.  At least it's at a time that, theoretically, one could wake up and catch it live.

Not me, though.  F1 Update! will be watching the race via the miracle of a VCR.  See you Sunday!

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April 19, 2009

Random Anime Picture #42: Sloths in Anime #3

It was just over a year ago that I had a trivia question regarding "fast sloths" in Card Captor Sakura and Special A (the link is broken; look at April 10th, 2008 if you're curious).

Tonight, I have found another sloth in anime.

-Bubblegum Crisis 2040, ep 26.

I have no idea why this pleased me so.

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F1 Update!: China 2009!

We shouldn't be surprised that it was raining in Shanghai today.  After all, this is Bizarro Season, and the forecast was for sunny skies: of course it was raining!  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2009 Grand Prix of China!

*CLICHE TIME:  "Rain is the great equalizer."  Cliches get to be cliches because they're usually true.  In F1, this particular cliche really is true.  Throw in the new aero rules and nobody knows just what's going to happen when it rains... and that goes double for the newly-dominant BrawnGP team.  After all, they only had a month's worth of testing before Australia, and none of it was in the wet. Oh, don't get us wrong, a good car is still going to be better than Farce India's entries, but the gap between the two is going to be very much reduced, and a driver's skill level becomes the main factor in where the two will end up in the final standings (which explains why FA's Adrian Sutil was running in sixth place until very late in the race: he's good in the wet).

So when the skies opened up above the Shanghai International Circuit sometime before the tv cameras were turned on, two things became very clear: 1) it was going to be an interesting race, and 2) polesitter Sebastian Vettel was the happiest man in the world.  Last year, he had a dominant win from pole at Monza in the wet, laying claim to the title of "Der Regenmeister" in the process.

Today, Vettel repeated his Monza performance with a twist: he was even more dominant.  At one point, he was over five seconds a lap faster than Jenson Button.  He finished nearly 45 seconds ahead of the Brawn driver, and it would have been a lot more if his team hadn't have reined him in.

*GIVES YOU WIINS:  Today's win by Vettel was the very first for Red Bull, a team now in its fifth season.  Last year, he also earned Toro Rosso, Red Bull's unofficial junior team, their first win at Monza, also in the wet.  Vettel is no longer a future star... he's a star now

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Should be obvious by now, shouldn't it?  Sebastian Vettel not only blew the rest of the field off the track today, he made it look ridiculously easy in the process.  At one point, he came out of the pits, with a full tank of fuel and green tires, some seconds behind the previously unassailable Jenson Button, who was low on fuel and therefore should have been faster.  He caught up to the Brawn racer in no time flat, then blew his doors off.  After that, he wasn't ever challenged.  Probably the most dominant performance we're likely to see this season... unless it rains again.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  Again, should be obvious by now.  Red Bull not only got their maiden victory today, but Mark Webber, their other driver, finished second, 30 seconds ahead of his nearest competition.  When everything is going right, you get results like this.  Now to see them do it in the dry....  Honorable mention goes to McLaren for their fifth-sixth finish.. with Lewis Hamilton, their best runner in the rain, following Heikki Kovaleininninnie, who had yet to finish a lap this season.  Baby steps, baby steps.

*MOVE OF THE RACE: On lap 31, Mark Webber goofed on the final turn (like many, many drivers did today), letting Jenson Button go by for 2nd place in the process.  Seven turns later, on a slippery track, Webbo went around the outside of the Brawn and made it stick hard.  The way the day had gone, the Red Bull driver probably could have passed Button later if he had waited, but it was still a gutsy move, earning a well-deserved MotR.

Honorable mention goes to the Toyota crewmember that came up with the idea of the "nose trolly," a device to make a nose cone change go quicker:

Previously, a nose change required two people to position the new nose, then a third to fasten the quickclips, and usually took about 15 seconds or so to perform.  Toyota's new cart, though, took the place of two people, and took about 10 seconds off the process.  Brilliant!

*MOOO-OOVE OF THE RACE:   When the best drivers in the world get stupid, they sometimes look like cows on the field... and thus, the Moooo-oove was born.  Toyota's Jarno Trulli was not having a good day.  From the moment the safety car left the grid and racing really began, he had been slipping farther and farther down the grid, looking like he'd never driven in the rain before.  Maybe the car just isn't good in the wet, maybe he's not good in the wet, whatever.  BMW's Robert Kubica wasn't having much better of a day, but he was, at least, competitive.  It was on lap 18 that the two of them conspired to turn both of their days miserable.  Trulli slowed down precipitously into the final turn, and Kubica, storming down the short straightaway either didn't see him due to the rain and spray, or couldn't get whoa'd up in time.  The result?

Surprisingly, Kubica only needed a new nose (as opposed to the new suspension it looked like he should have needed), and was able to go right into the pits to get it.  Trulli, though, was knocked away from the pit entry and had to do a lap like this:

Looks almost naked, doesn't it?  We just wish we could figure out which one of these two worthies to give the award to... so we'll give it to both of 'em.  Nice job, boys.



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F1 Comment Policy

Until the F1 Update! is posted, please do NOT leave comments in earlier posts regarding the outcome of the race.  Any such comments will be deleted on sight.

If it happens more than once, I will ban the offender cheerfully and happily.

This is common sense, people.  "So and so finished third" is as much a spoiler as "So and so won."

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China GP 2009: For What It's Worth

It's raining, and it's predicted to keep raining for the entire race.  Everybody is currently sitting on the grid with full wet tires.

Remember everything I said about the tires?  Throw it out, it probably won't mean a darn thing today.

UPDATE: They ran the first eight laps behind the safety car, and I'm going to bed.

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April 18, 2009

F1 Quals: China 2009!

This year, it's hard to say anything is a surprise.  However, the grid for the Grand Prix of China... this might be a surprise.  Let's take a look:

Pos Driver Team Q1Q2Q3
1 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 1:36.565 1:35.130 1:36.184
2 HWMNBN Renault 1:36.443 1:35.803 1:36.381
3 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 1:35.751 1:35.173 1:36.466
4 Rubens Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes 1:35.701 1:35.503 1:36.493
5 Jenson Button Brawn-Mercedes 1:35.533 1:35.556 1:36.532
6 Jarno Trulli Toyota 1:36.308 1:35.645 1:36.835
7 Nico Rosberg Williams-Toyota 1:35.941 1:35.809 1:37.397
8 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:36.137 1:35.856 1:38.089
9 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:35.776 1:35.740 1:38.595
10 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 1:36.284 1:35.965 1:39.321
11 Nick Heidfeld BMW Sauber 1:36.525 1:35.975
12 Heikki Kovalaninnie McLaren-Mercedes 1:36.646 1:36.032
13 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:36.178 1:36.033
14 Timo Glockenspiel Toyota 1:36.364 1:36.066
15 Kazoo Nakajima Williams-Toyota 1:36.673 1:36.193
16 SeaBass STR-Ferrari 1:36.906

17 Nelson Piquet Jr
Renault 1:36.908

18 Robert Kubica BMW Sauber 1:36.966

19 Adrian Sutil Farce India-Mercedes 1:37.669

20 Giancarlo Fisichella Farce India-Mercedes 1:37.672

Yes, the Brawn Supremacy has been broken... just not by one of the "Big Three."  Nope, Red Bull and Renault both stepped up today and shoved their way to the top of the grid.  To be honest, seeing Red Bull up there isn't really a shock.  It's been clear all season that the RB5 is probably the best car out there that doesn't have the trick diffuser.  Despite that lack, Vettel was in line for a podium in Australia... before that little coming-together with a BMW.

The Adrian Newey-designed chassis should be good: he's probably the best aerodynamicist in F1 history (even if he still uses a drafting table instead of a computer, an attitude I heartily endorse).  The question is whether the RB5 will ever have the trick diffuser at all... the chassis' rear was designed so tightly that installing a new diffuser is requiring a complete redesign of the rear.  With the testing ban, it might be difficult to get it on the track without crippling the team for multiple races.  But I digress.

The huge surprise for the day has to be HWMNBN in the Renault.  Where the heck did that come from?  The car hasn't shown that sort of speed, and they took the KERS system off to boot.  Hmmm... could there be a connection there?  Ferrari, plagued by reliability problems with their version of the KERS, has also removed it from their racers.  In fact, the only KERS cars this race will be the McLarens and BMWs (both of them this time).

As predicted, we've finally seen a McLaren in Q3.  Sure, it's only 9th, but it's a step in the right direction.  It's thought that the two McLarens are running different versions of their new diffuser, which isn't a bad idea.  Since there's no testing allowed, that's the only way to figure out what's what.  Unsurprisingly, Hamilton appears to have gotten the good one, though that might be a reflection of the difference of skill between Lewis and Heikki.

Felipe Massa has got to be mumbling to himself by now.

Unsurprisingly, with the release of running weights for the cars, it's found that the cars in the top three positions are light on fuel.  HWMNBN's car weighs 637kg, Vettel 644kg, Webber 646.5kg.  By comparison, the Brawns are at 661kg for Barrichello and 659kg for Button.  So perhaps it isn't a surprise at all that HWMNBN got up to 2nd: he probably has enough fuel on board to go maybe 15 laps before he needs to pit.  I'd expect to see the Brawns in around lap 20-22 or so, by comparison.  Maybe Renault is gambling on rain?

In other news, Timo Glockenspiel had to change his gearbox after Saturday's practice... it appears that his Toyota tried to select two gears at once, which is a very bad thing for a gearbox to do.  He'll take a five-gridspot penalty.

The race looks to be falling into the laps of the Brawns, but one never knows... that's why they run the race, which occurs on Sunday morning.  See ya here for the F1U!

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April 17, 2009

F1 Practice: China 2009!

So that's the new McLaren diffuser.  As predicted, McLaren's fast lap in Friday's first practice didn't carry over to the second, with the best the team could do was Heikki Kovaleininninnie's 9th, almost a second behind... yup, you guessed it, BrawnGP's Jenson Button.  Lewis Hamilton could do no better than 13th, 1.262 seconds behind Button.

And, as I said in the last post, we really can't predict anything from practice results.  I will venture to say that the McLaren looked much more stable than it did in Australia or Malaysia.  In those races, the rear end was slipping out on practically every turn.  Today, though, it was... well, not nailed down, but a lot better.  I have a feeling we'll see a McLaren in Q3 on Saturday for the first time this season.

One problem that every team is going to have to deal with is the tire selection Bridgestone was told to bring to China.  As with Australia, we've got the Medium and Super-soft compounds.  To be blunt, the super-softs are going to be crepe.  Don't get me wrong, they're blindingly fast... nearly five seconds per lap faster than the medium compound tires.  Too bad they only last around four to six laps before they've gone straight into the garbage.  There were in-car shots that showed chunks of the tires flying off in the turns after only a couple of laps, and everybody seemed to be suffering terrible graining.

As with Australia, the Brawns seem to be better on their tires than everybody else: this tire lasted about eight laps before it kicked the bucket.  It doesn't help that the Shanghai circuit has a rather abrasive surface, either.

However, for those few laps they last, the super-softs are world beaters... which makes them perfect for Quals, which we'll see on Saturday.

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April 16, 2009

Ferrari Flinches, Double Diffuser Dishing

Things are going from "bad" to "oy" for the Red team.  They've announced that they've scrapped the KERS unit from their cars for this race and the next one in Bahrain due to a critical reliability problem... meaning "it blowed up, it done blowed up reeeeeeeal good."

Then, to make matters worse, they were so sure their appeal to have the Diffuser Three excommunicated would succeed that the team didn't work on their own version, and so will be racing without it.  It's gonna be a long weekend for the team from Maranello, I predict.  They intend to show up in Spain with a new "b-spec" car, presumably with the trick diffuser and a revamped KERS system... but, perhaps, we shouldn't hold our collective breaths for a huge performance upgrade.

There are some teams that were faster off the mark than Ferrari, however.  Renault is said to be running a double-level diffuser like the Diffuser Three have, while McLaren has an interim system on their cars that has a small winglet above the diffuser and below the crash structure, which would put it right below the lights in this picture:

It might have worked.  Lewis Hamilton was fastest in the first Friday Practice, by .116 over Jenson Button.  As I mentioned in the Australian Practice post, the McLarens seemed to have a problem with the rear of the car stepping out on them, a clear sign of a lack of downforce which leads to a lack of grip and a lack of acceleration (hard to make the car go fast when the wheels won't stick down).  If this winglet has done anything to increase the downforce, the car can't help but be improved.

Unlike Steven, however, I'm not entirely convinced that they're going to be better than the Brawns and the Toyotas this race.  Improved, yes... but remember, they were almost 1.5 seconds slower in Australia (we can't judge anything with Sepang, due to the completely awful weather there).  To think that a small piece of carbon fiber could speed them up by that amount is somewhat implausible.  I think it's time to bring out the old chestnut: "you can't judge anything from practice results."  It's just too likely that McLaren and Brawn were working on different things to say "aha" quite yet.

After all, due to the testing restrictions, this is the first time the Glare With Wheels has been on track with this new diffuser... and I mean, ever.  It only stands to reason that the team was going with a low fuel load and soft tires the entire practice, just to get as much data as possible.  That's conductive to low times, obviously.  Meanwhile, the Brawns turned fewer laps than the McLarens did... they don't need to tinker and fiddle.

I did some digging, and found out that the McLaren of Hamilton was actually slower than Rubens Barrichello's Brawn (who was third in Prac1) in the first two sectors of the track, but faster in sector three... which is, basically, turn 11 to the start/finish line, also known as the high-speed part of the track, where the diffuser would make the LEAST amount of difference for the most part.  It'll help on the exit of 13, so the McLarens can get the power on faster for the long straight, but they're still behind on the rest of the track.

So, again, don't judge anything by practice results.  We won't know much until after Quals on Saturday... but it'll be a ball finding out!

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April 15, 2009

Diffuser Three Ruled Legal

The FIA handed down their verdict in the Case of the Double-Decker Diffusers this morning, and surprisingly they got it right.  The FIA's International Court of Appeal released a statement that read:

"The FIA International Court of Appeal has decided to deny the appeals submitted against decisions numbered 16 to 24 taken by the Panel of the Stewards on 26 March at the 2009 Grand Prix of Australia and counting towards the 2009 FIA Formula One World Championship.

Based on the arguments heard and evidence before it, the Court has concluded that the Stewards were correct to find that the cars in question comply with the applicable regulations.

Full reasons for this decision will be provided in due course."

So status quo, everybody.  BrawnGP still rules the roost, Toyota and Williams get to keep their points, and now the frantic scramble to fit trick diffusers to the other 14 cars begins.  I've heard thru the grapevine that Renault will probably have theirs installed in time for the race, but nothing on the others.

More details later if events warrant.

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April 14, 2009

F1 On Speed!: China 2009

With the FIA deliberating on the Case of the Diffuser Three and a decision expected on Wednesday, the rest of the F1 Circus charges into Shanghai for the third race of the season.  Last season, the Chinese GP was the penultimate race, run in October.  The expected weather for this year is cool and less humid, which will make the engine shops happy.  That same forecast, however, will give the Bridgestone tire techies headaches as lower track temps mean tires that won't grip as well until they heat up... which takes longer when it's cool.

Those cold tires mean that the KERS cars may well have to limit their use of the power-boosting system until they heat up.  After all, throwing another 80hp through the tires when they aren't gripping well means even less traction as the tires skitter and spin, just like a dragster off the line (though, it must be said, in miniature).

Let's take a look at the track map for the Shanghai International Circuit:

Yes, another Hermann Tilke "Adventure" track, full of great passing locations that are completely ruined by mickey-mousing... turns 6, 11, 13 and 15, I'm looking at you here.  Still, I'll give Tilke credit for one thing: the exit of turn 13 actually has some small amount of banking to it, the only one in F1.  Ironically, it's called "Indianapolis".

Yeah, I'm not a fan of this track.  Okay, bonus points for being shaped like the Chinese character "shang", meaning "ascend", which is the first character in Shanghai, but minus several million for being a pig to race on. 

Or, at least, it was.  With the new aero rules improving the ability of these cars to actually pass one another, all bets are off.  We won't know until they actually get on the track... which the good folks at SPEED will be showing us live!

Starting with Friday's Second Practice on the 17th, from 1am to 240am.  Quals are on Saturday the 18th, from 1am to 230am, plausibly live.  Will Brawn get their third pole in a row?  Or will their diffuser be pulled away?  We'll know soon...

Then on Sunday, April 19th, from 130am to 4am, we'll get live coverage of the Grand Prix of China.  There's a replay Sunday afternoon from 330pm to 6pm.

See you then!

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