July 31, 2010

F1 Quals: Hungary 2010

Welcome back to the Bad Old Days.  Let's take a look at the provisional grid:

Pos Driver Team Q1Q2Q3
1 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 1:20.417 1:19.573 1:18.773
2 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 1:21.132 1:19.531 1:19.184
3 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:21.278 1:20.237 1:19.987
4 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:21.299 1:20.857 1:20.331
5 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:21.455 1:20.877 1:20.499
6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 1:21.212 1:20.811 1:21.082
7 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1:21.558 1:20.797 1:21.229
8 Robert Kubica Renault 1:21.159 1:20.867 1:21.328
9 Pete Rose
BMW Sauber-Ferrari 1:21.891 1:21.273 1:21.411
10 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1:21.598 1:21.275 1:21.710
11 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:21.422 1:21.292
12 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:21.478 1:21.331
13 Adrian F'n Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:22.080 1:21.517
14 Slappy Schumacher Mercedes GP 1:21.840 1:21.630
15 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 1:21.982 1:21.897
16 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1:21.789 1:21.927
17 NKOTT STR-Ferrari 1:21.978 1:21.998
18 Gandalf Kobayashi BMW Sauber-Ferrari 1:22.222

19 Timo Glockenspiel Virgin-Cosworth 1:24.050

20 Heikki Kovalaineninnie Lotus-Cosworth 1:24.120

21 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1:24.199

22 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1:25.118

23 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 1:26.391

24 Sakon "DJ DNF" Yamamoto HRT-Cosworth 1:26.453

The Red Bull of Seb Vettel was over a second faster than the nearest non-RB6 competitor, the Ferrari of HWMNBN, and nearly half a second quicker than his teammate Mark Webber.  To make matters worse, that time was set on his first flying lap in Q3; usually the second flying lap has the faster time.  Certainly it was for everybody else.

It may be no coincidence that the first four slots are occupied by cars running what sure appears to be a flexible front wing.  Race Director Charlie Whiting has tested the front wings of both the Red Bulls and the Ferraris and declared them race-legal.  For all four cars though, video shows the endplates of the front wings nearly touching the ground on the high-speed sections of the track, instead of staying three inches clear as the regulations state.  This would have the effect of increasing downforce, thereby allowing the cars to brake later into a turn.  It seems telling that the fastest cars through the speed traps were the Force Indias at 186mph, while the Red Bulls were the slowest, nearly 11mph off the pace... yet they're still turning the fastest laps.

And not by a little bit either, but by a dominating amount... just like Ferrari used to during the dark days when Slappy, Rubens and Ross Brawn were making every race into one for third place.  As if Hungary wasn't boring enough.

In other news, Jensen Button was the shocker elimination in Q2, just unable to kick himself into the final session.  More surprising than that would have to be the Sauber of Pete Rose getting into Q3 for the first time this season.  In what is also a first for the year, Vitaly Petrov outqualified his teammate Robert Kubica. 

The "duh" moment of the qualifying period has to go to Gandalf.  At the end of Q2, he was supposed to pull into the FIA scrutineering garage so his car could be weighed and checked.  This happens randomly during quals, and is mandatory.  As he pulled into the pit lane, the red light at the entry was on, a FIA marshal was waving and pointing where he was supposed to go... and he drove right on through.  "I didn't see him at all," said Gandalf afterwards.  "I don't care," said Whiting in reply, "here's a five grid-spot penalty."  Which is lucky, because he could have been excluded from the race.

Race is tomorrow morning, F1U! will be along sometime.  See you then!

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July 30, 2010

F1 Practice: Hungary 2010

No news whatsoever from the track today.  Red Bull was fast, Ferrari was too, McLaren is struggling to keep up, etc etc etc

The only bit of any interest at all is the news that Lotus brought out their new chassis today, and it's substantially faster than the car they've been running all year.

Jarno Trulli testing the new Lotus
I suspect it won't pass scrutineering, and I don't want to be anywhere nearby when they take the fuel sample for testing.

God I hate the Hungaroring.

Quals in the morning.

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July 29, 2010

Smile For The Camera!

About a week ago, I asked y'all for recommendations about a digital camera.  Well, I've made my purchase, and the winner is the Nikon Coolpix L22, in red so it matches my cellphone (note: while it does match my cellphone, that's not the reason I got it in red.  They didn't have black in stock).  It's not quite as hands-on as I'd prefer, but it was about $60 less than one that let me set the shutter speed manually.  I can live without that feature for $60, and I suspect that once I get into the users guide, I'll find there's plenty I'll be able to fiddle with.

It's 12MP with a 3.6x zoom... here's an example of its capabilities:

Hi, Rusty II!
This is a 4000x3000 picture, reduced down to 640x480, or a factor of 6.25.  2.7mb in size.  Pretty good quality, that.  Now, here's a 640x480 crop from the original, full-sized, picture:

If ever there was a picture that let you know that Rusty II isn't your normal yellow duckie, this is it.  He's actually cast iron, weighs maybe 1.5 pounds, and you can see the little pits and dimples that occurred when he was cast. 

Oh, and that's at normal zoom from about three two feet away, under overcast skies.  Like all point-and-shoot cameras I've ever used, it has a problem focusing on on something that's much closer. (...but see the UPDATE below!)

Me likey!

UPDATE:  Two things.
1) I've discovered something called "macro zoom."  Goodbye problems focusing on things close in.  Here's a macro zoom shot, 4000x3000, reduced to 640x480:

That's from about half a foot away, more or less.  Now here's the 640x480 crop from the full-resolution pic:

Yes, that's his left eye.  I probably won't be getting THAT close very often... kinda creepy, actually.
2) My media card reader may not be able to deal with a 4GB SD card.  Whoops.

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July 28, 2010

Ikkitousen Xtreme Xecutor Omake... Dear Merciful Heavens!

Okay, while I haven't managed to get I:XX into my viewing stream yet, I can tell you one thing:  the omake are going to be awesomely ecchi!  I'm talking Dragon Destiny-level pervy here, kids.

The first one was released recently and while it hasn't been subbed yet, you don't need words to know what we're looking at!

Oh.  Oh my.  NSFW "below the fold" as they say in the newspaper biz.


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July 26, 2010

F1 on SPEED!: Hungary 2010

Okay, let's get this out of the way.

This is the trackmap for the Hungarian Grand Prix.  If you think it looks like a Hermann Tilke circuit, you'd be wrong... which makes it all the worse.  Slow, twisty, narrow, dusty from disuse, the Hungaroring was constructed in 1986, before Tilke became the unofficial official designer for F1.  It does all the same sort of things that your normal Tilke track does: turns perfectly positioned to ruin any chance at passing on a straight, turns too quick to pass on, hairpins too big to turn inside someone (2 and 5, I'm looking at you), even the main straight is one of the shortest in F1.  It's the Ur-Tilke Circuit.

The original concept for the layout came from Birdy Ecclestone himself.  He wanted a street circuit similar to Monaco built in Budapest... instead, the government of Hungary built the circuit in a nearby park, but used the same basic design.  The result?  A street circuit without any of the visual appeal of street circuits.  The one thing the Hungaroring does well is spectator seating; situated in the bottom of a natural bowl, fans can see most of the track from nearly anywhere but the main grandstands.  However, the sandy soil makes the bowl a dusty nightmare to drive in.  That natural bowl also traps the heat and humidity of the Hungarian summer.  Drivers routinely complain about the temperatures and the bumpiness of the track surface, both of which make life miserable.

On the other hand, I routinely complain about the whole GP of Hungary experience.  Now that Magny-Cours is off the calendar, this should be the next track to get the axe... unfortunately, it has a contract through 2016.  The only thing that can save a race here from being a processional is rain.  Unfortunately, there's only been one rain race here, in 2006... which turned out to be Jenson Button's first victory and perhaps the best race of the year.  There IS rain predicted for Sunday, but we all know that forecasts made a week out can change.

The one spot of good news is that we're back to live coverage on SPEED!  No more four-hour-tape-delayed coverage, and not as many commercial breaks, too!  P2 comes to us live on Friday, from 7am to 840am, with Quals from 7am to 830am on Saturday.

The race will be LIVE on SPEED from 630am to 9am on Sunday morning, with a replay from 130pm to 4pm that afternoon.  F1U! will be doing our usual eccentric coverage all weekend, god help us.  See you then!

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July 25, 2010

F1 Update!: Germany 2010

One year ago to the day, Felipe Massa was nearly killed by a freak incident.  Today he was sitting third on the grid.  But would it be a storybook ending, or would the Red Bull of Seb Vettel continue that team's near-dominance of the season?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the Grand Prix of Germany!

*NEVER MIND:  During Quals, the forecasters were saying that it was going to be raining at the start of the race.  Well, it turns out that German weathermen aren't any better than those here in the US.  Weather was not a factor, other than a few clouds that rolled in during the second half of the race.  The clouds cooled the asphalt, lowering grip levels a touch.  Otherwise?  Nothing.

*LIGHTS OUT, UH-HUH:  Sitting on pole, with the best car on the grid underneath him, on his home track (he grew up just a few kilometers away from Hockenheim), and knowing that he's one of the best drivers in F1 today, Seb Vettel surely was feeling confident as the red lights came on.  Ferrari's HWMNBN, sitting second, was a threat that he couldn't take lightly, but if he drove his race and nothing went wrong with his car, he had an awfully good chance to win.  When the red lights went out however, nothing went right.  He had a lousy start, immediately allowing HWMNBN to get right up alongside him.  Vettel tried to squeeze the Ferrari, drifting over to the right.  HWMNBN stayed on the gas all the way and refused to let the Red Bull intimidate him, knowing that he had the inside line as they charged down to Turn 1.  But Vettel's drift had an unintended side-effect: it opened nearly the entire track up for Felipe Massa, who took advantage.  Through Turn 1, his Ferrari was almost two car lengths in the lead with his teammate in front of Vettel.  To make matters worse for Red Bull, Mark Webber had to stand on the brakes to keep from plowing into the back of his teammate, letting McLaren's Lewis Hamilton get a great run, blowing past him in Parabolica.  Farther back in the pack, Toro Rosso's NKOTT did plow into the back of his teammate Seb Buemi.  The Swiss driver was out on the spot, while NKOTT's nose scattered a ton of debris across the track, debris that cut the tires on both Force India machines, sending them into the pits.

*AND THAT'S THE WAY IT IS:  And for the most part, that's the way it stayed.  Mark Webber wound up dropping down to 6th after the pit stop rotations were over, losing a place to McLaren's Jenson Button, but the important positions remained the same: Massa, HWMNBN, Vettel, Hamilton.  The two Ferrari drivers were fairly close, with Vettel about four seconds behind.  HWMNBN got on the radio back to the Ferrari pit wall and began to whine about being faster than his teammate, saying things like "This is ridiculous."  Shortly thereafter, Massa opened up a two second lead, giving the lie to the Spaniard's claims.  But by Lap 45, the lead was down to less than a second and the Legendary Announce Team was talking about how there were no "team orders" allowed in F1.

*HISTORY LESSON:  In 2002, Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello was leading the Austrian Grand Prix late in the race, and by a decent margin, too.  No question he was going to take the victory... except for one thing: his teammate, Slappy Schumacher, was in second.  Ferrari, wanting to get Slappy maximum points for his run at the Driver's Championship, ordered Barrichello to let his teammate past... and made it quite clear that if he didn't, his seat would be in jeopardy.  Barrichello did, but he did it in the most blatantly obvious way possible, slowing down precipitously as he approached the finish line.  Slappy went past, and Barrichello came in second.  The crowd booed, Schumi gave Rubens the winners trophy and insisted that he stand on the top step of the podium, and the FIA reacted by banning "team orders."  From then on, teammates were to race each other regardless of standing, and teams could not manipulate results.

*BUT:  Of course team orders still exist, teams are just more subtle about it.  It might be something like one car's pit stop taking a second longer than the other, but ridiculous maneuvers like that in Austria wouldn't happen again.  But with HWMNBN under a second behind Massa, Ferrari got on the radio and said "(HWMNBN) is faster than you.  Can you confirm that you understood that message?"  We never heard the response from the Brazilian, but on Lap 49 it became clear that Massa got it.  Coming off a turn, Massa just never got back on the throttle and HWMNBN swept past him like he was standing still.  Ferrari claimed after the race that "Massa made a small mistake when (he) shifted up three gears at once," but that's nothing more than a flat-out lie.  Ferrari shamelessly violated the ban against team orders.  If HWMNBN really was faster than Massa and as good as he's supposed to be behind the wheel, he shouldn't've needed team orders.

*FINALLY:  And that's the way it ended, with HWMNBN winning his second race of the season, Felipe Massa in second, and hometown hero Seb Vettel in third, kicking himself for lost opportunities.  After the race, the stewards fined Ferrari $100000 for violating Article 39.1 of the Sporting Regulations, and forwarded the matter to the World Motor Sport Council for further penalties.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Felipe Massa.  We'll never know if he could have held HWMNBN behind him for 12 laps, but he still drove a helluva race today.  His start was a thing of beauty and he made very very few mistakes out there... the only major mistake was driving on the same team as HWMNBN.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  McLaren.  Yes, neither Lewis Hamilton or Jenson Button were on the podium, but they just didn't have the grunt to stay with the Ferraris or the Red Bull of Seb Vettel.  Fourth and fifth were about the best they could have hoped for, and that's what they got.  And they didn't have to cheat to do it.

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  There wasn't one.  If we lift the rule stating that the MotR can't come on the first lap though, Felipe Massa's run to Turn 1 and into the lead from third on the grid would win.

*MOOOOOOOOOO-OOOVE OF THE RACE:  You may remember that the two Toro Rossos got into each other, an incident that scattered carbon fiber across the track, resulting in punctures to both Force Indias.  That's where our story begins.  It took quite a bit of time for Adrian Sutil to limp his car around to the pit lane but when he came to a stop in his box, it seemed like the mechanics were not ready for him.  A ton of frantically disorganized activity got him in and out in a halfway decent time, but it wasn't pretty.  As Sutil pulled out, his teammate Vitantonio Liuzzi pulled into the pit lane to get new tires.  Again, the team looked disorganized.  And then something weird happened... Adrian Sutil turned one lap and returned to the pit lane for another tire change.  It was only then that it became clear just how disorganized Force India had been: they had sent him out with three hard tires and one soft!  A few moments later, Liuzzi came back into the pits... and he had on three soft tires and one hard!  It's hard to believe, but they screwed up BOTH cars in the exact same manner.  Bravo, Farce India, you truly deserve this MOOOOOOOOO-OOOVE!



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July 24, 2010

F1 Quals: Germany 2010

The 1997 Grand Prix of Europe saw three drivers, Jacques Villeneuve, Slappy Schumacher and Heinz-Harald Frentzen, set identical qualifying lap times of 1:21.072, the closest pole result in F1, and perhaps all of motorsport in general, history.  Why does this piece of trivia matter?

Let's look at the provisional grid for the Grand Prix of Germany:

Pos Driver Team Q1Q2Q3
1 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 1:15.152 1:14.249 1:13.791
2 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:14.808 1:14.081 1:13.793
3 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:15.216 1:14.478 1:14.290
4 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 1:15.334 1:14.340 1:14.347
5 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:15.823 1:14.716 1:14.427
6 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:15.505 1:14.488 1:14.566
7 Robert Kubica Renault 1:15.736 1:14.835 1:15.079
8 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:16.398 1:14.698 1:15.109
9 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 1:16.178 1:15.018 1:15.179
10 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1:16.387 1:14.943 1:15.339
11 Slappy Schumacher Mercedes GP 1:16.084 1:15.026
12 Gandalf Kobayashi BMW Sauber-Ferrari 1:15.951 1:15.084
13 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1:16.521 1:15.307
14 Adrian F'n Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:16.220 1:15.467
15 Pete Rose
BMW Sauber-Ferrari 1:16.450 1:15.550
16 NKOTT STR-Ferrari 1:16.664 1:15.588
17 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 1:16.029 1:15.974
18 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1:17.583

19 Heikki Kovalaineninnie Lotus-Cosworth 1:18.300

20 Timo Glockenspiel Virgin-Cosworth 1:18.343

21 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 1:18.592

22 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1:18.952

23 Sakon Admiral Yamamoto HRT-Cosworth 1:19.844

24 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth No time

Two milliseconds separate hometown hero Seb Vettel and Ferrari's HWMNBN.  Two-thousandth of a second.  My back-of-envelope calculations tell me that a car averaging 120mph per lap (note: I have no idea what the average lap speed is at Hockenheim) will move just over four inches in two milliseconds.

Four inches over a 2.842 mile long course.  That was the difference between pole position and second place, the second smallest gap in qualifying times in F1 history, behind only the aforementioned 1997 GP of Europe.  HWMNBN did not look particularly pleased sitting there during the post-Quals interview session, while Vettel had a smile broad enough that I was afraid the top of his head would fall off.

All the worries about a wet qualifying session ended up for naught, as there was even a bit of sunshine here and there on the track.  However, and this news brought a smile to my face, the weathermen are now predicting rain around the time the race is scheduled to begin.  Considering the times put up by everybody, it appears that the teams have gone with dry setups, and I think everybody was on the super-soft tires in Q3.  Certainly the top eight were.  I don't remember seeing Rosberg's tires, and Hulkenberg turned a total of one timed lap during Q3 and may not have even been on camera.

In other happenings during the Qualy session, Lucas di Grassi had a breakdown of some sort before he could take to the track.  Force India's Adrian Sutil had to change a gearbox before the session, so he'll be given a 5-spot grid penalty and will be starting 19th.  His teammate, Vitantonio Liuzzi, had a wicked crash in Q1 that brought out a red flag for eight minutes while debris was cleaned off the front straight.  Probably the surprise of the session, though, was the lousy performance of Team Mercedes.  Slappy didn't make it out of Q2 and his teammate Nico Rosberg just barely squeaked into Q3 (bumping Slappy out in the process).  Hockenheim was originally built as a test track for Mercedes, it's their home circuit, and the company always throws a big bash during race weekend.  Heck, the stadium section of the track is named "Mercedes" for heaven's sake.  A lot of red Teutonic faces today.

Race is tomorrow on Fox... and F1U! will be all over it.  See you then!

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July 23, 2010

F1 Practice: Germany 2010

If practice sessions are anything to go by, and they usually aren't, Sunday's race at Hockenheim is going to be all about two numbers: 3 and 2.

Three is roughly the number of seconds faster per lap that a car shod in the Bridgestone super-soft tires can expect to be in relation to the hard compound rubber.

Two is roughly the number of laps that the super-soft tires will give you before they give up and go south.

This disparity could very well make for some interesting racing come Sunday.  Remember that a driver is required to start the race on whatever tire compound he used when he turns his fastest qualifying lap.  Will someone make a bid for pole on the super-softs, get pole, but then have to change his tires after only a few laps?  Or will someone, lets say Gandalf Kobyashi, run almost the entire race on the hards, then zip into the pits, come out on the stickies, and cause havoc in the standings?  It's not impossible that we might even see two or three stops this race if the hards can't stand the gaff.

But then, as if intended to throw everything into a cocked hat, the teams are going to have to deal with the weather, too. 

The FIA: Masters Of The Obvious
The Legendary Announce Team described it as "changeable," which doesn't make it sound like so much of a much, but we discovered something about Hockenheim today that I didn't know previously: it doesn't drain very well.  Rivers of water were running across the track during most of P2, even though it didn't rain much at all during the session.

It rained quite a bit during the first practice session however, making the track treacherously slick.  Lewis Hamilton discovered just how bad it was when he began skidding one way, deftly caught his McLaren, then had the car overcorrect underneath him and go galumphing over the curbs, through the grass and into the tire barrier on the outside of Turn 3.  Unfortunately, he hit at a relatively shallow angle and the car wound up rotating around the point of impact, the left-rear wheel.  In the process, it broke the suspension on three corners of the car, tore up the bodywork something fierce, damaged the rear wing and diffuser, tore off the nose, and generally beat the thing into a pulp.  Reportedly, the undertray was ripped to shreds too, just to make things worse.  However, and here's the important part, the actual chassis and monocoque weren't damaged.  All the team had to do was hang replacement parts onto the framework of the chassis, scrape the gravel out of the cockpit, and the car was good as new... after a few hours of white-knuckled work by the McLaren mechanics, of course.  Much to everybody's surprise, Hamilton got back on track with 15 minutes left on the clock in P2.

The 2008 World Driver's Champion wasn't the only person having problems with the track.  Pretty much everybody had at least one or two moments where they did some agricultural driving, and by the time the practice session was over it looked like the track's dry line was about 10 feet to the outside of the curbing on some turns.

While it's not supposed to rain on Sunday, it IS expected to do so during the Quals session... which, along with the question about the tires, throws us another curveball.  Will teams set their car up for the wet weather, hoping to improve their qualifying position, but compromise their setup for the race?  Remember, once a car takes to the track at the beginning of Q1, it is in what is called parc ferme condition, meaning that they can't be worked on at all without petitioning Race Director Charlie Whiting.  Whiting does not approve of such things unless it's a matter of a broken part, for example, and then it can only be exchanged like-for-like.  This means no adjusting the setup from wet to dry before the race. 

Conversely, a team could go for a dry setup, hurting their qualifying position (and making it easier to wreck the car!) but improving their speed on race day.  Or, of course, they could go for an in-the-middle setup and screw themselves on both days... I don't expect anybody would do that, but it's an option.

So many questions hanging out there, all to be answered on Saturday morning!  See you then!

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July 21, 2010

I'd Like Your Input

I'm looking for a good, relatively inexpensive ($120 in a brick'n'mortar store, or thereabouts), digital camera.  See, all these years that I've been posting photos of my duckies, I've been using either the Duck U. Bookstore's 3 megapixel Sony or Ph.Duck's 5 MP Samsung.

The thing is, I have absolutely no idea what makes a good camera anymore.  When I was working for CowPuters lo these many years ago, a 5 MP camera was the top of the line at the consumer level, and even then I knew that the ones we carried were... um... not so good.  I do know that all the megapixels in the world don't matter if the lens is crepe, and being able to zoom in on something from a mile away isn't useful if the camera can't do anything with the input.

So all you shutterheads, I need your advice!  What's a good camera for someone like me?  I've been looking at THIS one, but I really don't know if the one on the shelf right next to it is better, worse, or exactly the same... help?

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July 19, 2010

F1 on TV: Grand Prix of Germany 2010

What do you do when you've got two Formula 1-quality race tracks in a country, neither of which are willing to shell out the cash to Birdy Ecclestone to own the GP outright?  You alternate the tracks, of course.  They did that in Japan for a short time, bouncing between Fuji and Suzuka, but the idea originated in Germany.  Last year the German Grand Prix was run on the Nurburgring Jr track.  This year, however, it comes back to Hockenheim.  Let's take a look at the map:

In its original format, the circuit didn't have a turn at Turn 2, instead charging out into a forest, then returning and joining the modern track at the Hairpin.  It was a frighteningly fast track that had the ability to reach up and kill even the best F1 driver ever.  Of course, that's too dangerous for today's racing, and rightfully so, and the track owners let Hermann Tilke get his hands on the layout.  Now it's just another track.

However, it's a track that the new-spec cars have yet to run on with slick tires, since they raced at the Nurburgring last season.  What's really surprising is that Bridgestone has decided to bring the super-soft and the hard rubber compounds to Hockenheim.  Now that might make a driver's choice of tires very interesting.  The asphalt on the circuit isn't known as being particularly abrasive, but it doesn't baby the rubber, either. 

In fact, the whole circuit is sort of like that: it's very much in the middle of the circuits on the calendar as far as difficulty, downforce settings, tire wear, top speed, yadda yadda yadda.  I suppose if you want to see just how good your car is, there probably isn't a much better place to find out.

Of particular interest to the fans this time around will be the reception of one Slappy Schumacher and the other German drivers (Nico Rosberg, Seb Vettel, Adrian Sutil, Timo Glockenspiel, Nico Hulkenberg), not to mention two (technically) German teams (Mercedes, BMW-Sauber).  Should be raucous.

Well, we'll find out just how raucous the fans get starting Friday from 7am to 840am with SPEED's coverage of the 2nd Practice session.  The next day, SPEED brings us Quals, from 7am to 830am.

I'm pleased to say that this will be the final race of the season to be broadcast on FOX, though to be fair, it appears that most of their problems with the Canadian coverage was due to the race being done live.  The last two races have been pretty decent, though wayyyyyyyyyy too many commerical breaks for my taste.  Anyway, this race will be Sunday from 11am to 1pm, with a replay Tuesday on SPEED, also from 11am to 1pm.

All times, of course, are Pond Central. 

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July 17, 2010

Four More First Episodes

With the Summer Anime season in full swing over in Japan, of course I've been watching.  In my first post, I came up with three keepers and a possible fourth.  This time around, let's look at four more series and see what shakes out, shall we?


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July 15, 2010

Summer Days

Wednesday was probably the hottest day of the summer here in Duckford.  It got over 90ºF for what felt like the thirty-first day in row, but it was the oppressive humidity that really made it miserable.  Eh, it's summer in the upper Midwest, what do you expect, right?  That's the nature of the beast.

Wednesday night, it only got down to 77º, and though I didn't think it would be possible, the humidity got worse.  When I dragged myself into bed at midnight, it was still over 80 and the dewpoint was 76, according to the National Weather Service's station at the Duckford International Airport, which is just a couple of miles from Pond Central.

Then Thursday happened.  It was 86 and still thickly humid by noon... simply miserable.  Here's the bad part: that temperature was recorded inside the Duck U. Bookstore!  Yep, still no air conditioning.  Even with a fan blowing directly on me, because of the humidity I was still soaked with sweat.  Other people work in that sort of heat every day, I know... construction workers, for example... but they're paid more than me, and it's pretty much part of their job. 

Not so much for members of the Light Music Club
At 1215pm, the Bookstore closed for the day, the first time in the 6+ years I've worked there that we've shut down because it was hot.  Snow?  Of course.  Rain?  Yep yep, mostly because of power failure.  Heat?  Never before.  Most of the U's offices either closed or moved to the newest campus building, which has it's own air conditioning system, for the day.  Of course, it's not like we could pick the store up and go there ourselves. 

Hopefully the new a/c system for the U will be turned on Friday, as the Ops staff plan.  Cross your wingtips we don't blow any transformers or something like that...

UPDATE, FRIDAY 7/16:  It was cooler at the Duck U Bookstore, but not because the a/c was turned on.  Instead, it's because it actually got down to the low 60s overnight and a lot of the humidity went away.  Still, I'm glad I wasn't working today, and the a/c might still be fired up today.  It'd make working tomorrow a lot nicer...

ANOTHER UPDATE, SAME DAY:  They did try to turn the new chiller units on at Duck U this afternoon.  ComEd, bless their little hearts, told them that the transformer would be able to handle it.  Nope!  Transformer trashed damaged, new one scheduled for arrival on Tuesday.  Might even get the day off on Tuesday, because most of the campus is powered through that transformer, including the IT center, which means no internet and no phone service when they replace it.  We'll find out on Monday.

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July 13, 2010

Top Gear Gets A Visitor

Casual fans of the BBC TV show Top Gear are familiar with the segment "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car," where some celebrity shows up and takes an inexpensive vehicle around Top Gear's own racetrack.  The top star currently is musical artist Jay Kay, lead singer of the group Jamiroquai, with a 1:45.8 in the Chevrolet Lacetti, known as the Suzuki Forenza here in the States (for the record, the fastest lap around the track was put in by a RN Sea Harrier, :31.2; the fastest car was Renault's 2004 F1 car, the R24, with a :59.0, driven by The Stig).

What those who aren't particularly familiar with the show don't know is that, occasionally, they manage to score real racers for a lap around the track, known as "F1 Stars in a Reasonably Priced Car."  Such luminaries as Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Nigel Mansell, Mark Webber and Damon Hill have turned laps, with all coming behind The Stig's 1:44.4. 

Last night, they snagged Rubens Barrichello.

It's remarkable how not tall Barrichello is, particularly standing next to 6'5" Jeremy Clarkson.  He's very small.  I knew that F1 drivers are usually short, but it's still a shock every time one sees that fact.  Anyway, in his day job, he drives a F1 racer, capable of 205mph on the right track, with enough grip to pull 5Gs in the turns or under braking.  But what is he driving for this lap?

A Suzuki Liana, the same as every other F1 driver.  Rubens' reaction?

He drove the same line that The Stig takes around the track, unlike just about every other F1 driver, who tend to go a lot wider through the turns to keep their speed up.

And what was the result?


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July 11, 2010

F1 UPDATE!: Great Britain 2010

So did Red Bull run away with the race as expected, or did McLaren and Ferrari hold on to make it a challenge?  THIS is your F1U! for the 2010 British Grand Prix!

*ANOTHER RED BULL ONE-TWO... SEVEN?:  Mark Webber must be feeling somewhat aggrieved by the way his team is treating him these days.  Despite the fact that he'd won just as many races as teammate Seb Vettel and was only a few points behind him in the Championship standings while arguably driving better overall, Red Bull has obviously thrown their support behind the young German.  As an example, after the nosecone of Vettel's RB6 broke during Saturday's practice session, it was discovered that the team only had two of the new, more effective, design available for the race... and one of them was now ruined.  The other was on Webber's car.  Reportedly no less a figure than Dieter Mateschitz, king of the Red Bull empire and owner of the team, declared that Vettel would get the nose and Webber would have to use the older design.  Another example is when the team blamed Webber for the accident in Turkey, despite it clearly being Vettel's overoptimistic pass attempt that was at fault.  So it came as no surprise when the lights went out that Webber was in a bad mood.  A very good start put him alongside his pole-sitting teammate as they headed into the first turn, and on the inside racing line to boot.  It probably took Webber no time at all to decide to force the young German wide and entirely off the track as they came out of the turn, and there must have been a smirk on the Aussie's face as the reports of Vettel's tire puncture came back to him.  From there, it was relatively smooth sailing for Webber as he became the first driver this season to win three races. 

*ABOUT THAT SEVENTH...:  Last race we saw Gandalf Kobayashi go some 50-plus laps on a single set of tires.  This time around, Seb Vettel's puncture on the first turn of Lap 1 laid the groundwork for something potentially more impressive: an entire race save one lap on a set of tires.  When the young German came out of the pits after the tire change, he was not only dead last, but a full 30 seconds behind the car in 23rd place.  Yet he managed to baby his rubber well enough to still be going strong up to the penultimate lap, at which point they completely gave up the ghost and he started to lurch around Silverstone like a drunken sailor.  Yet being off the regular pitstop rotation turned out to be something of a boon, as he made up quite a few positions while others were getting their tires changed.  It certainly helped that he's in the best chassis, but a mighty effort to score anything considering the way the day started.

*HWMNBN SCREWS UP AGAIN: ...and again Ferrari is complaining about it.  On lap 16, the Ferrari driver was battling with Renault's Robert Kubica for 7th place.  After some tight wheel-to-wheel action, Kubica forced the Spaniard to go off-track or wreck both cars.  HWMNBN cut the turn completely, returning to the track in front of the Pole.  Gaining an advantage from doing such a maneuver is a definite (and clear-cut) no-no in the Sporting Regulations, but all he had to do is relinquish the position and everything would have been fine.  Instead, he accelerated off into the distance and even passed another car for 6th.  Then Kubica had to retire the car with mechanical difficulties, and while the Race Stewards were digging in the rules for the appropriate penalty, a Safety Car was called out for debris on the circuit, as Pete Rose's rear wing partially disintegrated due to the rumble-strip nature of Silverstone's asphalt.  When the drive-through penalty was handed out, you could hear the screams from Maranello here in Duckford.  Unable to serve the penalty behind the Safety Car, HWMNBN dropped from 6th to 16th when green-flag racing resumed.  Of course, Ferrari is saying that HWMNBN couldn't relinquish the position since Kubica retired shortly after the incident, and that the penalty should have come down sooner, and yadda yadda yadda.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Jenson Button doesn't much care for Silverstone, his home track.  He's never won there, he's never even finished on the podium, and after qualifying 14th, it looked like he'd have a hard enough time getting into the points.  Despite not being happy with the grip on the car, he still managed to bring it home in 4th place, mainly due to picking up a whopping eight positions on the first lap.  He still wasn't on the podium, but it was a heckuva run for the reigning World Champion.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  McLaren.  Yes, Red Bull got the win, but if things were happier on that team they would have finished 1-2.  The friction between their drivers cost them that lockout.  Ferrari just looked sloppy today, with two very bad pitstops late in the race and HWMNBN's gurning about.  Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton hung onto the rear of the faster Webber and while he never got particularly close to the Red Bull, he was never very far away, either... it only would have taken one little mistake.  Throw in Button's semi-miraculous 4th place, and it was a very good day indeed for the team from Woking.

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  On Lap 31, we saw one of those fights that make F1 so interesting: a small team vs big team / youth vs experience clash.  Force India's Adrian Sutil was closing in on Mercedes' Slappy Schumacher.  Every time the younger German tried something, the older German would slam the door shut, making it clear that Shumi would have none of it.  Finally, Sutil got tired of the game and forced his way inside of Slappy, getting very very close to Mercedes... maybe a little too close.

Still, the talented youth (at least, "youth" in comparison to Slappy) made it stick, impressing the heck out of everybody watching.  Nice job!

*MOOOOOOOO-OOOOVE OF THE RACE:  Felipe Massa's race was essentially over halfway through the first lap, ended by a puncture caused by his teammate that forced him to limp into the pits.  Emerging in 23rd position, he was destined to spend the rest of the day looking at the rear ends of HRTs, Lotuses and Virgins as he slowly made his way back up to 13th.  Then on Lap 39, either due to tire wear or driver fatigue, his Ferrari suddenly spun into the last turn, neatly squaring off his tires.  Ah, but at least he was close to the pits, so he drove right into his box and stopped for new rubber.  And waited.  And waited.  And waited.  It took nearly 30 seconds for the pit crew to get the new tires out to the wounded car, let alone change them.  Ten laps later, the same thing happened again as HWMNBN suffered a puncture passing Vitantonio Liuzzi.  So split this one between Massa (for his unprovoked spin) and the team (for their lackadaisical attitude).  Bad job!



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Four First Episodes

The Summer 2010 anime season has gotten underway over in Japan, and I'm rather optimistic this time around.  In the Spring, I wound up following only two shows: Angel Beats and K-On!!, with a third, Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou, ending up on the shelf after I watched half.

This season, though, I'm already hooked on four series, and there are two others that I haven't had a chance to watch yet.  Let's take a look, shall we?


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July 10, 2010

F1 Quals: Great Britian!

Hoo-boy, is this gonna be an ugly race tomorrow.  Let's take a look at the grid:

Pos Driver Team Q1Q2Q3
1 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 1:30.841 1:30.480 1:29.615
2 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 1:30.858 1:30.114 1:29.758
3 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:30.997 1:30.700 1:30.426
4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:31.297 1:31.118 1:30.556
5 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 1:31.626 1:31.085 1:30.625
6 Robert Kubica Renault 1:31.680 1:31.344 1:31.040
7 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:31.313 1:31.010 1:31.172
8 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:31.424 1:31.126 1:31.175
9 Pete Rose
BK Sauber-Ferrari 1:31.533 1:31.327 1:31.274
10 Slappy Schumacher Mercedes GP 1:32.058 1:31.022 1:31.430
11 Adrian F'n Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:31.109 1:31.399
12 Gandalf Kobayashi BK Sauber-Ferrari 1:31.851 1:31.421
13 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1:32.144 1:31.635
14 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:31.435 1:31.699
15 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1:32.226 1:31.708
16 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1:31.638 1:31.796
17 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 1:31.901 1:32.012
18 NKOTT STR-Ferrari 1:32.430

19 Heikki Kovalaineninnie Lotus-Cosworth 1:34.405

20 Timo Glockenspiel Virgin-Cosworth 1:34.775

21 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1:34.864

22 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1:35.212

23 Cowboy Karun Chandhok HRT-Cosworth 1:36.576

24 Sakon Yamamoto HRT-Cosworth 1:36.968

Another RedBull one-two, but at least in the past someone has been able to challenge them a little bit.  Not here, not today.  Today, Seb Vettel and Mark Webber dominated Silverstone completely and utterly.  When you have the only cars turning sub-1:30 laps and the nearest competitor is almost 3/4th of a second behind, you know you're doing something right.  Nowhere on the circuit did the RB6 seem to have a weakness that somebody could possibly exploit for some momentary gain.  The only thing that appears to be able to do them in on Sunday is mechanical difficulties, and while that may be a thin reed to cling to, you'd best believe that it's possible.  During Saturday's final practice session, Vettel was having a routine lap when his nose fell off.

You can see that the wing is askew and actually dragging on the ground.  It's hard to spot, but the nosecone of the car is actually separated from the chassis right where the arrow is pointing.  The mounting points for the top of the nose failed, and while Red Bull have replaced both the mounting points and the mounting pins on Vettel's and Webber's cars, it can't be a big confidence boost for the drivers.  Kind of like how Seb Buemi must have felt when the wheels blew off his car.

Behind, very far behind, the front row we find the usual suspects... except for one.  Jenson Button doesn't much care for Silverstone.  Certainly it's his home circuit, and yes indeed he likes driving here he says, but he's had a dog's luck at this place.  "The car is undriveable," was the call over the radio, "there's no rear grip."  The best the reigning World Driver's Champion could manage was 14th, and he may have been lucky with that.

Sharp-eyed readers might notice that Bruno Senna's name is missing from its usual place at the bottom of the timesheets.  It appears that HRT is in something of desperate financial straits at the moment, if rumors are to be believed.  Creditors are reportedly baying at their door, and in an attempt to get some fast cash they sold his seat for this race only to former SuperAguri driver Sakon "Admiral" Yamamoto.  At least, that sure seems to be the way it looks; Senna is physically healthy, and other than his sponsors not paying their bill to the team, there's no obvious reason that he wouldn't be driving.  I have a bad feeling about this.

Now, about the new "Arena" portion of the Silverstone Circuit.  Reviews are mixed, all in all, with some drivers loving it, while others just can't stand it.  What nobody likes is how slippery the new surface is, and how bumpy the tarmac is.  Particularly bumpy is the spot where the old layout meets the new.  What was supposed to be a fairly fast bend now has an incredibly rough patch right in the middle of it.  Just watching cars cross it is scary enough, I can't imagine how it feels to be in the car when it goes over this washboard at speed... with an unsprung suspension, no less.  The Legendary Announce Team's tech wonk, Steve Matchett, says that cars all up and down the pit lane have been suffering damage from the bumps, the track surface already has gouges taken out of it, and it seems quite possible that Vettel's amazing removable nose trick may have been aided by the vibrations caused.  Should make for some interesting times tomorrw, all in all.  We'll be here after the race with F1U!  See you then.

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July 09, 2010

F1 Practice: Britain! Cancelled

I've often said that the only reason I watch practice sessions is to get used to the circuit.  Well, maybe I'll watch a bit of it later, but for now there will be no coverage of Friday's 2nd Practice from Silverstone.  To be honest, life has gotten in the way... worked this morning, then went to lunch with Ph.Duck and three of my relatives (distant but close, if that makes sense), and in a short while The Librarian should be coming over.  By the time she moseys off, it'll be late and I'll be exhausted.

See, currently there's no air conditioning at Duck U.   Last year the chiller system for the U shuffled off this mortal coil.  The Powers-That-Be brought in a temporary unit (really neat, actually; mounted on a semi-trailer) and ordered a permanent replacement unit to be delivered in May of this year.

The manufacturer failed miserably.  It didn't show up until just a few weeks ago, and it has been VERY hot and humid around Duckford recently.  In fact, it hit 91 on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Unfortunately, that was in the store.  And on Tuesday, we got our big shipment of used books for the Fall semester.  Of course, the freight driver refused to deliver the 73 boxes into the store (like he was supposed to) because the loading dock is a little short.  So guess who got to do it?  Ugh.

As a result, this four-day week was very long, very uncomfortable, and very very draining.  So I suspect that I'll be asleep fairly early.

Quals in the morning, THAT I'll be all over like a cheap suit on rice.

Or something like that.

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July 08, 2010

The Pond Is Five!

When the Lord of MuNuVia, Pixy hisownbadself, sent me an invitation to join his growing blog empire, I had no idea that The Pond would still be a going concern five years later.  But yet, here we are!

Five years.  Phew.  Long time in blog terms, that. 

Anybody want some cake?

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July 06, 2010

Random Anime Picture #55

-Sora no Woto, ep 7.5

A wagon-mounted gatling squirtgun created by a genius armament designer being pushed by a nun with the ammo supply carried by a trumpet player, all three of whom are drunk.  Sure, I can see that.

Actually, this DVD-only episode was really, really funny and well worth watching if you're a fan of the show.  Heck, maybe if you aren't a fan, too.  Heck, just for the facial distortions that Noël displays when she reveals her secret weapon:

Gotta love it when a person takes pride in their work...

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July 05, 2010

F1 on TV: Grand Prix of Great Britain 2010

People say that Monaco is the soul of Formula 1, and surely that's where the big deals usually get done in the sport.  After all, who in their right mind would turn down a fully-paid business trip to Monte Carlo on F1 weekend?   Right, nobody.

But if Monaco is the soul, the home of the British Grand Prix is the heart of the sport.  Silverstone was the site of the very first official World Championship F1 race in 1950, and most of the teams are based within easy drive of the track.  Heck, Force India's site is located literally across the street from the entrance.

But with Birdie Ecclestone in charge of track choices, the heart has changed.  Let's take a look at the track map:

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I introduce the Silverstone Arena Circuit layout.  The original, familiar layout used to follow the green more-or-less horizontal line from Abbey to Brooklands.  The new Arena layout is about 780m longer, and was created so the circuit could host a round of the MotoGP motorcycle championship when it looked like F1 would be moving to Donington Park.

I'll be curious to hear the driver's opinions on the new section.  It looks like it'll make the track a little faster overall.  The stretch from Abbey to Turn 13 will probably be a flat-out sweeper, and the run from 14 to Brooklands probably won't require any braking in the least.  All of this might add three more opportunities for passing (13, 14 and the reduced-radius Brooklands), or it might just end up doing nothing.  I suspect the latter, but we'll see. 

Still and all, Silverstone still has my favorite conglomeration of turns, the Maggots-Becketts-Chapel complex, so I'm happy.  Probably F1's ultimate high-speed rhythm sequence, if I was given access to one place on the F1 calendar, even if it wasn't a normal spectator spot, I'd choose the inside of Becketts, pretty much right where the number "04" is on the map.  Seeing the cars change direction on a dime like they do there must be an awe-inspiring sight.  For the record, second choice would be at the crest of the hill of Eau Rouge, third would be inside the tunnel at Monaco.  Fourth would be somewhere on the pit wall of any race.  But I digress.

For a relatively high-speed circuit, the usual setup for the cars sees a medium level of downforce.  There's just enough tight turns to make it worthwhile to go a little slower on the straights.  "Ya gotta go slow to go fast" isn't just an overused aphorism, it's also the truth.  Stowe, Vale, Turns 13 and 14, and the M-B-C complex all scream for a ton of grip.  So you crank on a bit more wing and smirk when you slotcar through the turns while everybody else slops around.  Still haven't heard about the tire compounds that Bridgestone'll will be bringing, but I'd guess supersoft/medium.  I don't remember the track surface as being particularly abrasive.

Well, we'll find out beginning Friday morning, from 8am to 940am, with SPEED's coverage of the 2nd Practice session.  Quals airs from 7am to 830am Saturday morning, also on SPEED.

The race, however, will be from 11am to 1pm on Sunday.  This will be the third of four FOX races, so check your local listings, just in case.  All times are, as usual, Pond Central time. 

Hopefully Mark Webber won't go for any more unscheduled flights... though Silverstone is an old RAF base, let's leave the airshow stuff to the Red Arrows.

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