August 30, 2009

F1 UPDATE!: BELGIUM 2009!

Once again, Spa brings us the best race of the season.  Action, drama, neck-and-neck racing, even a little bit of controversy, all of it could be found at the 2009 Grand Prix of Belgium.  This is YOUR F1 Update!

*LAP ONE HIJINKS:  We here at F1U! try not to mention the events of the first lap of any race.  Too many cars trying to go into too little space usually sends one or two of them back to the pit lane for a replacement nose or new tires; it happens almost every race.  Today, though, was a little different. 

When the lights went out, fourth on the grid Rubens Barrichello's anti-stall system cut in, reducing him to little more than a slowly moving obstacle as the rest of the thundering herd bore down upon him.  Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen twitched past him narrowly, but the others got past him clean.  Into La Source, polesitter Giancarlo Fisichella kept clean, and indeed, began to pull away from Jarno Trulli's Toyota and hot-starting Robert Kubica's BMW.  However, they and Grizzly Nick Heidfeld managed to pretty much block La Source as they went through.  Kimi Raikkonen, showing both the wisdom of experience and a total disdain for the rulebook, barely bothered to turn, instead going wiiiiiiiiide into the runoff area outside turn 1.  Then, with nothing but clear asphalt in front of him, he mashed the "go-really-fast" button and voomph, he was in second by Les Combes. 

While Kimi mumbled "rulebook?  What rulebook?", chaos reigned in La Source.  Three cars, including Adrian Sutil's Force India, wound up requiring new noses as everybody ricocheted off each other.  Actually, the surprise is that only three cars suffered damage.  One cockpit camera shot showed Lewis Hamilton's McLaren being jostled from either side by other cars... at the same time.  Still, nobody was knocked out, so no blood, no foul.  That, however, would soon change.

Into Les Combes, Kimi went a little too hot into the turn, scorching his tires and cutting across the curbs.  Kubica, unsure what was going to happen in front of him, slowed up and missed his braking point, also going across the grass and throwing a cloud of dust into the air.  Further back, it seems that Jenson Button saw the dirt flying and maybe slowed up a small amount.  Almost instantly, the Renault of Lettuce Grosjean plowed into the back of the BrawnGP racer, sending them both spinning into the tire barriers.  An instant later, the same thing happens to Lewis Hamilton's McLaren, with NKOTT's Toro Rosso sending both of them off into the tires, narrowly missing the stricken Renault.


Almost instantly, the safety car was deployed, bringing the breathless antics of the first lap to a remarkable end.  The damage toll: four cars out, three cars visibly damaged, and one, HWMNBN'd Renault, with some subtle wheel damage that'll only become apparent during his pitstop on lap 21.  At that point, his left-front tire could only be changed with much difficulty and the team sent him out after a nearly 20second long stop.  They then recalled his Renault, saying they couldn't be sure that his tire was secure (see Grand Prix of Hungary, 2009).  He retired shortly thereafter.

*MEANWHILE:  Once the safety car peels off to begin lap 4, the Force India of Giancarlo Fisichella manages to stay in front of Kimi's Ferrari through La Source, but in Eau Rouge the Ferrari driver again puts his thumb on the "go really fast" button and nearly runs into the back of Fisi.  Another snap to the side clears the Force India, and Kimi took the lead, a lead he would never relinquish.

*HOWEVER:  This was not a runaway victory for the Scuderia.  Grimly, Fisichella hung onto the back of the mumblin' Finn.  The lead that Kimi had opened during the KERS-assisted pass stretched no farther than 1.8seconds, and then the Force India began to slowly wind him back in.  The Ferrari had a small advantage in the fast sectors (1 and 3), but the slower sector 2 belonged solely to Fisichella, usually to such an extent that he would make up the time deficit of the other two and a little bit besides.   The lead was down to less than a second when the two came into the pits on lap 14.  Both stops were clean, though the Force India mechanics seemed to take a little bit longer.  The two cars rejoined the race the same way they entered the pits: Kimi in front of Fisi by less than 1.5seconds.  On they went, with the story progressing as it had earlier: the Italian slowly reeling in the Finn, but never quite being able to get close enough to challenge for a pass.  The 31st lap of the race brought both back into the pit lane, Raikkonen leading by about a second.  Both Ferrari's and Force India's mechanics got their respective chargers out in 7.1 seconds, and again, they were only a second or so apart back on the track.

*THEN:  It all somehow got better.  Lap 35 saw Seb Vettel's Red Bull come out of the pits in third place, just about 5 seconds behind Fisichella, who by now was only .7sec behind Raikkonen.  Vettel, free of challengers behind him, was able to concentrate on running down the dueling Ferrari and Force India.  Quickly, the gap to second place dropped to three seconds, while Kimi's lead was down to about a half-second on Fisi.

*FINALLY:  The church bells in Maranello pealed in happy celebration as the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen crossed the finish line still about a half-second ahead of the Force India of Giancarlo Fisichella, who remained about three seconds ahead of the Red Bull of Seb Vetttel.

*BUT:  With three laps left to go, the sixth place Brawn of Rubens Barrichello, who had been pushing hard to take 6th place away from Heikki Kovaleinninninnie, suddenly begins expelling a plume of smoke.

Behind him, 8th and 9th place, Nico Rosberg and Mark Webber, begin to salivate at the prospect of a free point.  The Brawn backs off of Kovaleinninninnie, but he can't take it too easy, since the other two drivers are breathing down his neck, hard.  Still, the car seems to be running okay, and the smoke doesn't seem to be getting worse, so Rubens presses on.  With one lap to go the pitwall calls him on the radio, saying that it's just an oil leak, and he'll probably make it to the end of the race.  Maybe.  They hope.  Knock wood.  Well, Barrichello must have run over a rabbit on-track and gotten one of its feet stuck in the bodywork somewhere, because the Mercedes engine held together to get across the finish line.

*AND THEN...:  Break out the smores!

The Brawn caught fire in parc ferme, seconds after the race had ended.  Someone once said the perfect racecar would run at 100% right until it crossed the finish line, then it would fall into a billion pieces.  Guess the Mercedes engine is pretty perfect then, eh?



more...

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Muppetmail!

So Brickmuppet, a Member of the Order of the Honorary Duck, is playing tourist over in Japan and he just sent me some photos!  And what does he believe is an appropriate subject for his missive?  A beautiful shinto temple?  Cherry blossom trees in full bloom?  The crush of otaku in Akihabara?  Cosplayers at Comiket?  A study of Mount Fuji?

...or a duck in a sailor suit holding a plate of curry.  Boy has his head on straight, that 'Muppet.

We've seen this particular duckie twice before, actually.  It seems this sailor-suit-bedecked duck is the mascot of a curry joint in Yokosuka near the naval yard.  I first became aware of him in the anime Sky Girls, when two of the characters have a conversation near a statue of the mascot, outside a train station.  'Muppet then tracked down that very station, and took a pic of the statue.

The story of Japanese curry is an interesting one, actually.  You can read about it here (scroll down).

Thanks, Muppet!

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August 29, 2009

F1 Quals: Belgium 2009!

I can't believe what I just saw.  I never thought I'd ever be typing this combination of words in this order.  Not even in my wildest dreams did I think this was even possible.

Here goes:

Force India is on the pole for the 2009 Grand Prix of Belgium.

Here's the grid:

Pos Driver Team Q1Q2Q3
1 Giancarlo Fisichella Force India-Mercedes 1:45.102 1:44.667 1:46.308
2 Jarno Trulli Toyota 1:45.140 1:44.503 1:46.395
3 Grizzly Nick Heidfeld BMW Sauber 1:45.566 1:44.709 1:46.500
4 Rubens Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes 1:45.237 1:44.834 1:46.513
5 Robert Kubica BMW Sauber 1:45.655 1:44.557 1:46.586
6 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:45.579 1:44.953 1:46.633
7 Timo Glockenspiel Toyota 1:45.450 1:44.877 1:46.677
8 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 1:45.372 1:44.592 1:46.761
9 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 1:45.350 1:44.924 1:46.788
10 Nico Rosberg Williams-Toyota 1:45.486 1:45.047 1:47.362
11 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:45.239 1:45.119
12 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:45.767 1:45.122
13 HWMNBN Renault 1:45.707 1:45.136
14 Jenson Button Brawn-Mercedes 1:45.761 1:45.251
15 Heikki Kovalaineninnie McLaren-Mercedes 1:45.705 1:45.259
16 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 1:45.951

17 NKOTT STR-Ferrari 1:46.032

18 Kazoo Nakajima Williams-Toyota 1:46.307

19 Lettuce Grosjean Renault 1:46.359

20 Luca Badoer Ferrari 1:46.957



FORCE FRICKIN' INDIA!
But the rest of the grid is weird, too!  Jarno Trulli second?  Is this the single most unlikely front row of all time?  Grizzly Nick Heidfeld's BMW third?  BrawnGP didn't even exist a few months ago, and 4th is disappointing for them now.  The BMW of Robert Kubica is 5th, for heaven's sake. 

Here's the frightening thing: Fisichella and Sutil's speed seems to be legit.  They were 1st and 4th in Q1, 3rd in Q2, and obviously fastest of all in Q3.  That sort of performance isn't a fluke.

Wait, this grid gets even more strange the farther down you go!  Look at positions 12 thru 14: reigning driver's champion Lewis Hamilton, two time driver's champion HWMNBN, current driver's championship points leader Jenson Button, and Hamilton's teammate Heikki Kovaleinninnie.  All knocked out in Q2, with Button and Hamilton just barely making it into that session to begin with, and all of them behind Adrian Sutil in the other Force India! 

In fact, the grid doesn't look truly normal until you get to those knocked out in Q1:  Buemi, NKOTT, Kazoo and Lettuce aren't strangers to dying in Q1.

Then you get Luca Badoer, who becomes the first Ferrari driver to qualify dead last in two consecutive races... EVER!  Sixty years and that has never occurred before.

And why this sudden burst of performance from Giancarlo Fisichella?  Some say that he's been tabbed to replace Badoer after Spa; Fisi for his part has always said that as an Italian, it's been his dream to drive for the Scuderia, and that he'd quit whatever drive he had immediately if it was offered to him. 

Or it might be down to fuel loads.  His 648kg weight is less than Trulli or Heidfeld (656.5kg and 655kg, respectively), but he's heavier than Rubens Barrichello (644.5kg). 

Or it might just be the Kingfisher that's probably flowing freely tonight in Mumbai.  No matter how it happened or how you look at it however, Force India has earned their first ever pole.  They were Jordan when I became a F1 fan, then turned into Midlands, then Spyker, then, finally, Farce India.

Well, they are a Farce no more.  All hail mighty FORCE INDIA!  Maybe they'll even earn their first point.  Hey, stranger things have happened.

The weather forecast calls for just a slight chance of rain, and temperatures in the mid-60s.  But this is Spa-Francorchamps; the teams have probably packed parkas, bermuda shorts, and a lot of umbrellas (not to mention snowshoes and sled dogs) into their transporters.  The weather is terribly unpredictable and really can change at any time.  In fact, during quals today, at one point it was sunny at one end of the track, cloudy at the other, and raining in the middle of the circuit, but NOT where it was actually getting on the driving surface.  Your guess is as good as anybody else as to what the weather'll be.  Which is one of the reasons why Spa is such fun.

See you Sunday!

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August 28, 2009

F1 Practice: Belgium 2009!

A beautifully sunny afternoon at Spa-Francopants for Friday's Second Practice session.  Quite the change from the first practice session, where it poured down buckets.  Ah, that lovely Spa weather... it's kinda like the weather we get here in the Midwest: don't like what you've got?  Wait a few minutes, it'll change.

For those unfamiliar with the layout of Spa-Francophone, here's a quick lap around courtesy of Kimi Raikkonen and ITV, from 2007 or 2008:


Note the elevation map shown at the beginning...
There are rollercoasters with fewer dips and hills than Spa.
Second practice was fun to watch, simply because of the track.  While nobody was particularly troubled, nobody seemed to have a firm handle on the beast either.  Everybody save McLaren had loads of wing cranked off, so all the cars could be described as "squirrely".  The McLarens, twitchy at the best of times, had so much wing dialed on that the Legendary Announce Team declared it "a barn door."

Well, everybody'll have farm implements on their cars tomorrow, as Lewis Hamilton had fast lap of the session, though only .016 seconds ahead of Timo Glockenspiel's Toyota.  A win, a second place, and now this?  Yup, McLaren's back.

Down at the other end of the timesheet, the Marc Gene watch continued as Luca Badoer was, again, embarrassingly slow, over two seconds behind Hamilton, and nearly a second behind 19th place.  Further endearing himself to the other drivers and teams, his car shed a wheel spat early in the session, bringing out a red flag as the debris was sitting dead-center in Blanchemont.  No, it wasn't his fault, but it still happened to Capitano Lento.

Oops.
So, enjoy your Badoer while you can, because he probably won't be around much longer.  Drivers rumored to be replacing him include the aforementioned Gene, Nico Hulkenberg aka the driver with the name most made for F1Update!, HWMNBN (with some weird contract finagling), and the dearly departed SeaBass, late of Toro Rosso.

Quals in the morning, with any luck!  See you then.

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August 26, 2009

"The List" and LDLT

The human liver is a remarkable thing.  A human liver is huge, relatively speaking.  About the size of a football, it's the largest internal organ in the body.  It's almost too powerful for what it does, all things considered.  In fact, a person can lose 75% of their liver (from injury, for example) and still live perfectly well.

Not only that, but amongst the liver's amazing properties is the ability for it to regenerate.  That unfortunate person who was reduced to having only a quarter of a liver can expect it to grow back to full size in about eight years.  Truly amazing.

Which brings up LDLT.

Momzerduck is beginning the process of being put on "The List", you see.  "The List", in this case, is for a liver transplant.  The all-high muckity-muck God-Doctor-Specialists finally realized that her long-term  liver problems have damaged her quality of life, thereby making her a potential candidate for transplant.  There's a whole battery of pre-qualifying tests she has to undergo, of course, but those are being scheduled.

Then comes "The List."  For people who aren't Steve Jobs, "The List" can easily be two years long, or longer.  This can be a problem, considering that often the reason a person is on "The List" is that they could be expected to die within a year if they don't get a transplant.  Fortunately, Momzerduck isn't in that category... yet.  Hopefully, she'll never be in that category, but one can't hope for that sort of luck.  So onto "The List" she goes, hopefully.

Of course, sometimes a person's standing on "The List" doesn't matter, and they need a transplant right-the-hell-now! or they won't be on "The List" any more, if you get what I'm saying.  Sometimes they even get bumped up "The List" and get a full replacement liver from a non-living donor, which is medical-ese of saying "recent corpse" or "motorcyclist on a wet road".

But then there are the times where right-the-hell-now! doesn't happen, and the person needing a transplant doesn't get it.  It's only been recently that such things as liver dialysis and Bioartificial Liver devices have come into being, and that can help extend the time limit in some cases (one dialysis device, cleverly named "The Prometheus Device" is currently in trials and seems to have quite a bit of promise), but such things are not yet as common as kidney dialysis.

Which brings us back to LDLT, or Living Donor Liver Transplantation.  The first successful LDLT was performed in 1986, at the Universidade de Sao Paolo in Brazil.  It was originally a method by which a parent could have part of their liver removed and that piece transplanted into their child, replacing the kid's bad liver altogether.  Along the way, though, doctors realized that, because of both the uncanny efficiency and the regenerative properties of the liver, it could also be performed on adults for adults.

Basically, the donor has about half of their liver (the right lobe, to be specific) removed.  That substantial chunk replaces the entire bad liver in the recipient.  Recovery time is about 4-6 weeks for the donor, during which time the liver gets back to full functionality.  Shortly thereafter, it'll regain its full size.  Meanwhile, the newly-transplanted portion takes over for the diseased liver of the recipient, and it too grows back to full size, though it takes longer for them.

Though Momzerduck objects, I've declared my intention to be a living liver donor for her if it comes down to that.  Of course, that's if I'm found to be a viable donor... what with The Incident and all, I may not be found to be healthy enough for what is a pretty huge procedure.  I'm afraid I surprised Momzerduck with my research on the matter; she didn't think I had  quite accepted the situation.

Recently, I've been making a lot of jokes about melon ballers and ice-cream scoopers.  Whistling past the graveyard, I think.  Hell, I'm scared spitless about the whole thing, to be honest.  In the immortal words of the Pythons in The Meaning of Life, "...but I'm still using it!"

But then, the alternative is worse.  A lot worse.

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August 25, 2009

Cubs Sold

A few days ago, Steven asked "Hey, the Cubbies have got a new owner! Think it'll make any difference?"  As I sit here listening to the Cubs lose to the terrible Washington Nationals 12-4 in the 7th inning, my opinions on the matter are rather foul and vile.  In other words, a perfect mood to answer this question.

Short term, the sale of the Cubs to Tom Ricketts will make very little difference to the fortunes of the team as a whole.  They're saddled with two awful contracts, those of Milton Bradley (3 years/$30million) and Alfonso Soriano (8 years/$136million), which will make it difficult for the team to sign anybody of note in the offseason.  Both of these players are, to be frank, stinking up the joint.  Soriano was once a 40 homer/40 steal man, and while he's on pace to go 40-40 again, it's 40 walks/40 rbi (I exaggerate, but not by much).  They brought Bradley in to provide left-handed power and great on-base percentage... of course, he's promptly managed to hit 10 homers and hit .257 (as I write this, he just hit a home run, so make that 11 homers).  Both of them are, to be charitable, butchers in the outfield, and Bradley has an injury history longer than my wings.

The long-term signing of underachieving Carlos Zambrano, a starting pitcher with the famous "million dollar arm and a ten-cent brain", who is self-professed as "lazy", who recently went on the disabled list with a back injury suffered while he was taking batting practice (as he showed off his batting prowess, which is actually considerable), isn't going to help matters either. 

The one difference the new ownership will make is in management.  The team's general manager, Jim Hendry, and field manager, Lou Pinella, are probably walking to the hangman's noose after the season:  Hendry for signing those lousy contracts, and Pinella for his flat-out awful job this year.  The team has pretty much (Washington is up 15-5 now) underachieved all year, except when it's just been bad, and it probably shouldn't've been this way.

Long-term, however, there is some hope.  The 42-year old Ricketts is a long-time Cub fan.  He lived in the Wrigleyville area and met his wife in the Wrigley bleachers.  Unlike the Tribune Company, previous owners of the team, he has an emotional stake in the club.  Previously, TribCo made occasional noises about winning, but sure seemed more interested in just making money off the Cubs (and rightfully so.  That's what businesses do, after all).  I suspect that if Ricketts says he wants the Cubs to win the World Series, he'll actually mean it.  I have no idea how deep his pockets are after buying the team, but obviously he'll have SOME money left.

So, while I'm not getting my dreams get ahead of the ugly reality, there's at least a glimmer of possibility out there.  And what more can a real Cub fan hope for? 

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August 24, 2009

F1 on SPEED!: BELGIUM, man, BELGIUM! 2009!

It doesn't get any better than this.  We leave the boring street circuit in Valencia and head to the most exciting and vibrant track on the F1 calendar, the Swimming Pool at Spa-Francorchamps.  While Silverstone is probably my favorite circuit overall, if someone held a gun to my feathered head and said "only one track ever again," I'd probably choose Spa.

There's nothing you need in a race course that Spa doesn't have.  Elevation changes, high speed straights, both high- and low-speed turns, legendary curves, history out the ears, and rain.  Lots and lots of rain.  In fact, 2008's Grand Prix of Belgium was far and away the most dramatic race in a season chock-filled with drama.

Let's take a look at the track map for this wonderful circuit:

The named turns alone are worth the price of admission:  La Source, Eau Rouge, Raidillon, Beau Rivage, Pouhon, Blanchimont... any one of them would be the stars of a lesser track, but here they weave a course that pretty much every driver, and every F1 fan, loves.  From a steep climb at Eau Rouge that makes Raidillon a blind turn, to the steep downhill starting around 11 and ending around Blanchimont, no track on the calendar has more or steeper elevation changes.

Yet for all that, it's a very fast track, and will probably have the lowest downforce settings we've seen yet this year.  Monza will have lower yet, of course, but Spa is just a lot more fun than the Italian track. 

Of course, the ever-present threat of rain at this track in the Ardennes means that the setup is almost a crapshoot.  Do you plan for rain and crank on the wings and raise the ride height, only to suffer if it's dry?  Or do you take off wing angle, lower the chassis as far as it'll go and go for the speed, only to find that you can't stick to the road in the rain?  Headaches abound for the unwary, not to mention ping-ponging off the barriers before Raidillon.

No, it doesn't get any better than Spa-Francopants, and the good sprouts at SPEED will be bringing us their usual stellar coverage, beginning with Friday's Second Practice live from 7am to 840am.  Saturday brings us the plausibly live Quals session, from 7am to 830am.  The race, then, is on Sunday, LIVE, from 630am to 9am.  Bring your inflatable rafts and water wings, and let's go racing!

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August 23, 2009

F1 Update!: European Grand Prix @ Valencia 2009!

All those fans F1 gathered after the four-race stint on FOX were in for a shock today!  THIS is your F1U! for the European Grand Prix @ Valencia!

*CASUAL FANS BEWARE: To be honest, even we here at F1U! headquarters were nearly put to sleep by the EGP@V today.  Only the alleged "drama" of the first win in five years for Rubens Barrichello managed to keep us going.  To their credit, SPEED's Legendary Announce Team did a fine job of keeping the viewer informed of the strategies involved regarding pitstops, but that's awfully thin gruel to base a race on.

*RED HOT PIT STOP ACTION!:  From the start of the race, it was obvious that this was not going to be a runaway victory for any of the three favorites: Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovaleininninnie for McLaren or Rubens Barrichello for Brawn.  Closing in on the first round of pitstops Hamilton had a six-second advantage on his teammate, who was only a couple of seconds ahead of Barrichello, who it was thought had about four laps worth of fuel more than the McLarens.  Heikki stopped first, Lewis second, giving Rubens a chance to run in open air for the first time.  By the time he completed his pitstop, he had leapfrogged Kovaleininninnie via the rotation.  When Hamilton headed to the pits on lap 36, he had a mere 3.6 second advantage on the charging Barrichello.  Then it all went wrong for McLaren.

Hamilton's stop was a complete shambles.  As you can see in the above picture, the fuel rig is attached to the car and the tires are off... but there's no other activity on the corners.  McLaren hadn't brought out the new tires!  A stop that should have taken at most eight seconds or so took 13.5.  Meanwhile, out on the track, Barrichello ripped off personal fast lap after personal fast lap, for five consecutive laps.  When he made his second stop, he leapfrogged Hamilton and had a six-second lead besides.  At the end of the race, Barrichello finished in first, only 2.3 seconds ahead of second place Hamilton. 

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Rubens Barrichello.  He did everything right today.  He had to stay close to the lighter McLarens before the first stop and he did.  He had to stay close to Hamilton going into the second stop, and he did.  When Hamilton pitted, Rubens had to push like the dickens to open up as big an advantage as he could, and he did.  He deserved the win, and he got it.  Plus, it was his first win in 86 starts... congrats, Rubens.  NOW will you please stop whining???

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  BrawnGP.  While the win is nice, Jensen Button's 7th place wasn't entirely his fault.  Right at the start, Button was brutally cut off by Seb Vettel, forcing the Brawn to slam on his brakes.  HWMNBN did the same to Button a little later in the lap.  Simply put, a 7th place when you had two drivers pull somewhat dangerous stunts on you forcing you back to 9th isn't so awful, particularly when neither Red Bull earned a point today.  So, BrawnGP gets the TotR, but it's a lukewarm one.

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  None.  There was no on-camera passing whatsoever.  Allegedly Grizzly Nick Heidfeld passed Adrian Sutil at some point during the race, but we never got to see it, even in replay. 

*MOOOOOOOO-OOOVE OF THE RACE:  As most of today's stupid overtaking moves happened on the first lap, none of them qualify.  Really, it was a pretty clean race, all in all, so today's Moooo-ooove goes to Lettuce Grosjean for his unforced error that led to this fun little slide:

Even this gets a lukewarm win, because Lettuce actually showed some skillz here.  The car never came to a stop and he eventually transitioned from skid to regular motion in one smooth manuever.  Honorable mention goes to Luca Badoer for letting Lettuce pass him... IN THE PIT LANE.  We still have no idea what the heck was going on there.

*SELECTED DRIVER QUOTES OF THE RACE:

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August 22, 2009

F1 Quals: European Grand Prix @ Valencia 2009! (UPDATED)

McLaren's back.  Badoer's slow.  Really slow.

Here's the provisional grid:

Pos Driver Team Q1Q2Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:38.649 1:38.182 1:39.498
2 Heikki Kovalaineninnie McLaren-Mercedes 1:38.816 1:38.230 1:39.532
3 Rubens Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes 1:39.019 1:38.076 1:39.563
4 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 1:39.295 1:38.273 1:39.789
5 Jenson Button Brawn-Mercedes 1:38.531 1:38.601 1:39.821
6 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:38.843 1:38.782 1:40.144
7 Nico Rosberg Williams-Toyota 1:39.039 1:38.346 1:40.185
8 HWMNBN Renault 1:39.155 1:38.717 1:40.236
9 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 1:38.983 1:38.625 1:40.239
10 Robert Kubica BMW Sauber 1:38.806 1:38.747 1:40.512
11 Grizzly Nick Heidfeld BMW Sauber 1:39.032 1:38.826
12 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:39.145 1:38.846
13 Timo Glockenspiel Toyota 1:39.459 1:38.991
14 Lettuce Grosjean Renault 1:39.322 1:39.040
15 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 1:38.912 1:39.514
16 Giancarlo Fisichella Force India-Mercedes 1:39.531

17 Kazoo Nakajima Williams-Toyota 1:39.795

18 Jarno Trulli Toyota 1:39.807

19 NKOTT STR-Ferrari 1:39.925

20 Luca Badoer Ferrari 1:41.413

Two races ago, McLaren looked like they were destined to be backmarkers for the rest of the season.  Last race, Hamilton won.  This time around, a front-row lockout bodes well for the team's fortunes.  It's come too late for them to get into the top three in Constructor's points or for Lewis to make a run for the Drivers' championship, but they've suddenly become legit competitors for wins.  That might seem obvious since they won in Hungary, but did anybody really think that Toro Rosso had suddenly become winners last year, just because Seb Vettel triumphed at Monza?

Robert Kubica is showing signs of life now that BMW has decided to withdraw from F1.  While 10th isn't all that great, in Q2 he looked like he was a serious contender for a while, topping out around 4th before slipping back.  There's no question he's quick, we've seen that already... it must be that his car is rubbish.

We're still waiting for fuel loads to be reported, and for information on what happened to Kazoo Nakajima's Williams in Q1.  For no reason that anybody could tell, the engine apparently just cut out, causing him to spin and roll to a stop.

Luca Badoer just looks lost right now.  He was 1.5 seconds behind NKOTT, good enough for dead last on the grid, nearly 3.5 seconds behind the fastest speed set in Q2.  The LAT brought up a good point, saying that testing is a whole different animal than racing.  Boiling down what they said, it's similar to the difference between singing karaoke in your local bar... and performing in an arena in front of 50000 people.  They also thought that giving the seat to Badoer was something of a "thank you" for his decade of thankless service as the test driver for Ferrari, and that perhaps it's something of a white flag on the season as well.  After all, their other tester, Marc Gene, is an active racer who won at the 24 Hours of LeMans this year (as well as having raced in F1 as recently as 2004) and would probably be a lot more competitive.  Could it be that Ferrari really has given up on 2009?

I think they're right when they said if he's still in the cockpit (barring substantial improvements) after next week's race at Spa-Francopants, they've decided to concentrate on 2010.

Race on Sunday!

UPDATE: Fuel loads are in, and Rubens Barrichello looks like he's in the catbird seat.  With a total weight of 662.5kg, he's 9.5kg heavier than Lewis Hamilton and 7.5kg more than Kovaleinninninnie.  Everybody behind him back to 7th is lighter than him as well, though not by much.  So, fast lap in Q2, more fuel onboard, and still P3?  Yep, that's promising for ol' Rubino.  Now to see if he can actually get the car in gear when the lights go out.

Oh, and Luca Badoer is lighter than everybody ahead of him, except for NKOTT, up to 15th.  In fact, Jarno Trulli, two places ahead of him, is almost 18kg heavier.   Yeeeeeeesh!

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August 21, 2009

F1 Practice: European Grand Prix @ Valencia 2009!

Wow, it was good to see the F1 Circus back on track.  Lots of interesting stuff today, so lets get right to it.

For the first time in modern memory, we have a decent chance of seeing a non-penalized, still-running Ferrari finishing last in a Grand Prix.  Luca Badoer, replacement driver, was over three seconds/lap slower than the fastest time set in P1, good for dead last in the session.  In P2, he was 18th, but only because Lewis Hamilton's McLaren had a rather impressive slide that took him around two corners sideways only three laps into the second session.  When his front suspension went over a curb, something broke and the team apparently didn't have a replacement immediately at hand.  Badoer probably would have been 19th otherwise, probably not what Ferrari had in mind.  He only managed to beat out NKOTT.

Oh, and he got four three separate penalties for speeding in the pit lane, to boot.  At least he was fast SOMEwhere.

Meanwhile, Lettuce Grosjean and his hair, the new New Kid On The Track, managed to bring his Renault home in a neat 13th.  His teammate, HWMNBN, got the home crowd excited with the only sub-1:40 lap of the day, for the fast lap honors.  Just before he did that, however, he managed to screw up the final turn, locking up his brakes and slithering into the BMW of Grizzly Nick Heidfeld, who had wisely (if uselessly) moved as far away as possible from HWMNBN's racing line.  The front-right tire of the Renault got in the way of the left-rear of the BMW, with the inevitable result occurring:

Liftoff!  We have liftoff!
Heidfeld's Beemer was rather broken upon landing, and stayed in the pits for the remaining 15 minutes or so.  HWMNBN at least had the decency of cleaning up after himself, running over his front wing and dragging it into the pit lane.  Awfully nice of him.

In an e-mail to me, Official First Reader of The Pond Mallory asked me if the Legendary Announce Team's repeating of something Ferrari team boss Luca di Montezemelo said was true.  I'm afraid to say that yes, it is true.  See, di Montezemelo stated a week or two ago that he'd like teams to have the option of entering THREE cars in a race, as opposed to the current practice of two.  While the LAT suggested that would mean a potential 39 car field, that's not what di Montezemelo was actually talking about.  Instead, he wanted to actually limit the number of teams to eight or fewer, so as to do away with new teams altogether.  Of course, this would also raise operating costs (which is against the wishes of the FIA's cost-cutting measures) by at least a third.   Also of course, there aren't many teams that could afford running three cars; Ferrari for sure, and perhaps McLaren and Toyota could do it... maybe.  Gee, who would win the Constructor's Championship?

If there was a 39-entry field, though, we'd see a return of the pre-qualifying period, where the fastest 26 or 28 cars only would be allowed into quals.  I'm fine with that idea, but only if we really had that many discreet entries.

I'm sure di Montezemelo doesn't believe that would ever happen, though.

Quals in the morning!

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August 20, 2009

F1 News 'n' Notes Before Valencia

With the F1 Circus setting up its tents in Valencia, we've got some nuggets and tidbits of information being handed out like cotton candy and peanuts.

*Norbert Haug, president and overseer of all Mercedes-Benz motorsport activities, got a little dig in at the FIA today.  In the usual Thursday pre-race interviews, Haug was asked about the lifting of the one-race ban handed to Renault after the Hungarian Grand Prix.  His response was classic: "It's good to see that a harsh punishment is sometimes reversed. I would like to know what that's like."  Of course, the Death Penalty handed down to McLaren-Mercedes in 2007 had nothing to do with his comment.

*Campos F1, one of the new teams coming in for 2010, reportedly is going to name their driver lineup soon.  Expected to be in the Campos cars are Russian GP2 driver Vitaly Petrov and current McLaren third driver and F1 Update! long-time favorite Pedro de la Rosa, better known around these parts as "Pete Rose."  Petrov is an interesting choice.  He's currently third in the GP2 standings, and would be the first Russian F1 driver ever, which could be important considering that there's a push to place a Grand Prix in Russia.

*As expected, Renault did name Romain "Lettuce" Grosjean as the replacement for the fired Nelson Piquet Unemployed.  Lettuce immediately declared himself a French driver.  He actually was born in Switzerland, but his mother is French, and he has dual nationalities and passports.  "In motorsports, my nationality is clearly French, because all
all of the support in my career was coming from France, never Switzerland," said Grosjean.  Being French, of course, he will never win a F1 race, because one lap from the end he'll see a white flag and pull over.  (*badum-pssshhhhh!*)

*Ferrari's replacement for Felipe Massa, Luca Badoer, has managed to get some time in the F60 recently.  Earlier this week, he drove about 120 miles over two days on Bridgestone's ultra-hard demonstration tires as a TV commercial was filmed.  The runs were all in a straight line, and at least he got some practice with the gearbox.  In interviews, Badoer has said that Valencia "will basically be a test session" for him.

*Finally, as was earlier speculated, new team USF1 announced that YouTube CEO and co-founder Chad Hurley had signed on as the team's "primary investor."  No word if this means that the YouTube logo will be plastered on the car.  Considering Bernie Ecclestone's problems with the video website (which is why it's often hard to find current F1 clips there), one can only hope it WILL be, in a prominent spot.  The other interesting bit of news is that the car's livery will probably be blue.  See, back in the old days, a team's nationality determined their car's color.  Britain was green, Italy was red, Germany was silver... and America was blue.  It's a throwback, and I'm loving it.

See you tomorrow for Practice!

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August 19, 2009

Duck U.'s Back In Session!

Today was the first day of the new Fall semester at Duck U! 

Which means that all the ducklings wanted to get their books... NOW!

I'm a little... well, here's a graphical representation of my current mental state:

Yep, that about covers it.  We've been going great guns for the past few days, yeah, but the first official day is always supernutty.

And now, so am I.

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August 18, 2009

Manimani's Best

Sora no Manimani isn't the best show of this season; that's a dead heat between Taishou Yakyuu Musume and Bakemonogatari.  But I'll be damned if it isn't my favorite show of the season, and maybe the whole year.

My favorite part of the show is Sayo Yarai, who's the brains behind the Astronomy Club.  She's also the steadying rock of the club, an excellent balance to the impulsive and frenetic Mihoshi.  If there's ever been an anime I've been drawn to because of a single character, Sora no Manimani would be it, and Sayo would be that character.

Sayo being Sayo.
Which is not to say that SnM is a one-character show; far from it.  The whole gang is fun to be around (except for the Club President, who tends to pass out and bleed from the mouth if you look at him funny, or if the wind is blowing), the humor ranges from intelligent to slapstick, the art is pleasing to the eye, and the stargazing scenes look fantastic.

But I'd rather have Sayo be the main character.  She's just more interesting than Mihoshi and Saku, both of whom are pretty much cookie-cutter.  Saku's a bookworm and Mihoshi's on speed; we see them all the time in anime.  Sayo's quiet, but not a Rei or Yuki.  She can be goofy, smiles a lot, and people listen when she speaks.

And in ep05, we discover she has some other assets...

more...

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August 17, 2009

F1 on SPEED!: European Grand Prix at Valencia 2009!

As the F1 Circus reawakens from its midsummer slumber, we find ourselves headed to Valencia, on the east coast of Spain, for the European Grand Prix.  It's the second year for this track, and one can hope that we'll have a better competition than we did for the inaugural race.

Let's take a look at the track map, shall we?

Deemed a "street circuit," since most of the course runs through and around the marina district of the city, we discovered last season that it really has little in common with real street tracks like Monaco or Singapore.  The streets are wide and mostly smooth, there's plenty of runoff area where it's needed, and other than a stray pigeon or two, there's not a whole lot of drama to the circuit.  In other words, it's a Hermann Tilke course.

Of course, that was last year.  This year, if you remember (it has been a while since we last had a race, after all), we had a whole raft of rule changes that may make a difference. 

The signature of Valencia has to be the gazillion turns.  Sure, a few of them a hard to consider an actual turn, per se (21, 22 and 23, we're looking at you), but 25 is the definite record for modern circuits (no, I'm not counting the old Nordschliffe).  Visually, the bridge between turns 9 and 10 is probably the highlight, though it does have competition in the form of the marina and the nicely renovated buildings attendant to it.  Since it was the harbor for the 2007 America's Cup yacht race series, the city did a lot of beautifying to the marina area, and it showed.

However, at 200mph, you don't get to see much of it.  Further belying its so-called street circuit origins, Valencia is a low downforce, high-speed track.  As a result, it is hard on the brakes.  Turn 12 in particular is a test of the carbon-carbon pads, where the cars have to slow from a track-high-speed of about 201mph down to around 80-90mph.  All this abuse is quickly followed by turn 17, where they do it all again though only from about 160-180mph.  For all the go-fast-stop-go-fast-stop-go-fast nature of the circuit, though, it's relatively easy on the engines, though Kimi Raikkonen might disagree with that assessment.

Fortunately for the organizers of the race, Renault's one-race suspension resulting from HWMNBNed wheelless excursion in Hungary has been lifted, meaning that Spain's favorite son will be able to race in Valencia.  Perhaps he'll finish a lap this time.

Thankfully for all involved, the TV coverage returns to where it belongs, on SPEED Channel, for the rest of the season.  Their regular excellent coverage begins on Friday morning from 7am to 840am, with live coverage of the day's Second Practice session.

After that, we get Quals on Saturday morning, plausibly live, from 7am to 830am.  Later that night, though, Legendary Announce Team member Steve Matchett takes on a tour of the Ferrari factory in the special show "Ferrari: A Look Inside," from 11pm to 1130pm.  We don't often get a chance to see the inner workings of a F1 team's factory, and doubly so for the secretive Scuderia Ferrari, so this might be very interesting viewing indeed.

Finally, however, we'll get our F1 at the right time of day.  The 2009 European Grand Prix comes to us LIVE on Sunday, from 630am to 9am with a replay from 330pm to 6pm that same day. 

Of course, we here at F1 Update! will be all over the race with our usual sterling coverage.  Ahem.

In one last bit of news, Felipe Massa is recovering very well indeed from his head injury at Hungary.  In fact, there's some rumblings coming out of Italy that he may very well return to the cockpit of the F60 in time for Monza, two races after Valencia.  If so, that'll be one of the great medical miracles of our time, considering the multiple skull fractures he suffered.  While I hope he really is fully healed less than two months after the accident, I suspect that it's just the Italian press trying to stir up some circulation numbers.  After all, Slappy Schumacher's accident was six months ago, and he wasn't able to stand the gaff, though the neck gets a tougher workout in a F1 car. 

Either way, the fact that there's even a chance the doctors might okay him to race again this season is incredible news.  I wouldn't've put a wooden lira on that bet four weeks ago.

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August 16, 2009

Post Frustration

Over the course of this Sunday, I, Wonderduck, owner and sole proprietor of Wonderduck's Pond, the reading of which you are currently undertaking, had started four different posts prior to the one that is, at the moment, upon your monitor.

The first one, on a perhaps apocryphal technicality involving the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed, the Crimean War, and Russia, failed because there's no way to confirm the incident.

The second one, an argument regarding the best fighter plane of the Second World War, may be revisited in the future.

The third, involving the Japanese Zero, may turn into a "What If...?" post down the line, if I can just get past the niggling little detail that I don't know enough about the battle it involves.  It could be quite provocative, however.  Or stupid.  That's the problem with "What If...?" posts.

The fourth never got past the opening words "I told you that people would complain and whine about the second Haruhi Suzumiya series."  Unfortunately, I can't find the post or comment that I actually said those words.

So, frustrated beyond all comprehension, I will instead stoop to the last resort of the lazy anime blogger: a picture of a cute girl.  Enjoy.

-Hatsukoi Limited, ep03

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August 15, 2009

Random Anime Picture #46: True Love


-Bakemonogatari, ep06

"Araragi-kun, your wounds heal very fast, don’t they? So I bet it’ll be okay if I just took out an eyeball."

And this is a happy couple!  Eeeeeesh... remind me never to piss off Tsundere-chan, 'k?

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August 13, 2009

RIP Les Paul


Les Paul, age 93.

If you've ever liked a rock song, or ever held a solid-body guitar, or ever listened to a multi-tracked recording, you owe a debt of gratitude to Les Paul.

He passed away Thursday at the age of 94, after an 80 year career in music.  The world is now a much poorer place.

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Random Anime Picture #45: Better Than The Cubs


-Taisho Yakyuu Musume ep03

After that debacle of a 4th inning (and game, for that matter) on Wednesday night, I've given up on my Cubs for the season.  If they make it to the playoffs, swell.  But I'm no longer investing any more time than I absolutely have to to the Cubs this year.

Perhaps that makes me a 'bad fan' or something.  So be it.  They're a bad team, so I think I'm justified.

Go Bears.

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August 11, 2009

Slappy's Out!

Retired seven-time World Driving Champion Michael 'Slappy' Schumacher has called off his comeback.  Tabbed to replace the injured Felipe Massa, Slappy hadn't been behind the wheel of a F1 car since early 2007.  After a 67-lap test in the F2007 last week, he had severe neck pain.

Today it was revealed that his neck pain has not responded to treatments and that the motorcycle accident in February that injured the neck in the first place was somewhat worse than previously known.  Slappy had suffered "fractures in the area of head and neck" in the crash.  The amazing g-force loads experienced by a F1 pilot exacerbated the injuries, and instead of risking further damage or not obtaining medical clearance right before the upcoming European Grand Prix at Valencia, Slappy decided to end his comeback.

"I am disappointed to the core. I am awfully sorry for the guys of Ferrari and for all the fans who crossed fingers for me. I can only repeat that I tried everything that was within my power. All I can do now is to keep my fingers crossed for the whole team for the coming races."

To be honest, if Ferrari had let the severity of Slappy's injuries be known, the news of his comeback wouldn't've been hailed as such a wonderful thing, but with skepticism.  As it was, Slappy's physical fitness was already in question, even without knowing all the details of the injury.  There's no question Ferrari knew how bad the injury was, so either they honestly believed that a 40-year old with a broken neck who hadn't sat behind the wheel of a F1 car in three years could recover and drive well... or this was all just a weird publicity stunt.

I'm leaning towards the first, but I can't completely rule out the second.  After all, this IS Formula 1 (and Ferrari) we're talking about here.  There's been stranger things done.

Ferrari has named team test driver Luca Badoer to take over driver duties for Valencia, which is now looking like the least interesting race ever.  No Schumacher, no Renault (pending review of their suspension), no hometown hero in HWMNBN, and a frankly boring track?  Yeesh.

UPDATE:  Luca Badoer's highlight in Formula 1 probably wasn't even in a race, but at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy.


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August 10, 2009

For The Record


And furthermore...

That is all.

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