June 30, 2011

HRT Hates India!

Did HRT's team principal Colin Kolles once have a bad tikka masala or something?  Last year, the weekend before the 2010 British Grand Prix, the team jettisoned Cowboy Karun Chandhok from its lineup for Sakon Yamamoto.  Today, the weekend before the 2011 British Grand Prix, HRT demoted Narain Kittylitter into their reserve driver slot, replacing him in the race seat with Australian Daniel Ricciardo. 

A heckuva birthday gift for the to-be-22-year-old, who's birthday is Friday.  Ricciardo has been behind the wheel of a F1 car before, as he's been a Friday driver for Toro Rosso.  Somewhere, NKOTT (Jaime Alguersuari) is breathing a sigh of relief.  Ricciardo had been looming large in the shadows as the Toro Rosso driver had a lousy beginning to the season, leading many to believe that he'd take over NKOTT's seat.

Back at HRT, it's no surprise that everybody expects to see Kittylitter behind the wheel again, conveniently in time for the first Grand Prix of India... particularly because TATA Motors, India's largest automobile maker (and the world's 4th largest manufacturer of trucks and 2nd largest maker of buses) sponsors the team.  Yeah, Narain'll be back, no question.

Meanwhile, the guys over at Force India have to be muttering bad things about HRT, wouldn't you think?

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June 28, 2011

The Curious Class

The year is 1904 and James Arbuthnot Fisher had reached the absolute pinnacle of his career.  After fifty years in his chosen profession, he was arguably the most powerful man in the world.  You see, James Arbuthnot Fisher was better known as "Admiral of the Fleet Sir Jackie Fisher, First Sea Lord."  As such, he was the commander of the British Royal Navy, the strongest military force under the sun, answerable only to His Royal Highness, King Edward VII. 

In the past, Admiral Fisher had shown two interesting traits: an innovative mind, and a love for anything fast.  Some 10 years earlier, he had essentially created the class of ship we now know as the destroyer.  Now he had the power to push through his greatest idea yet: a battleship armed with nothing but one size of large-caliber guns.  She was to be named HMS Dreadnought, and her very existence made the rest of the world's battleships obsolete at a single stroke.  Obviously well-armed, well-armored, and (of course) fast for her time, the Dreadnought was a marvel. 

And then he had to go and create a companion for the Dreadnought design.  The concept was a good one: a ship able to chase down and kill commerce raiders in independent action, and able to act as the eyes of the battleline in a fleet action.  It was to be able to outfight anything it could outrun, and outrun anything it couldn't outfight.  To do this required two things: high speed, and high firepower... a tall order, even for today's technology.

For the early 1900s, there was only one solution... take away weight.  In essence, what Admiral Fisher wanted was to build a Dreadnought-class ship, but without all that pesky armor.  And, being First Sea Lord of His Majesty's Royal Navy, what Admiral Fisher wanted, Admiral Fisher got.  What he got was the HMS Invincible, the world's first battlecruiser.

Weighing the same as the Dreadnought within a couple hundred tons, the Invincible carried eight 12" rifles in four twin turrets.  While this was two guns fewer than the Dreadnought,  better positioning of the two wing turrets allowed them to fire to their opposite side.  As a result, she could fire the same strength broadside as the bigger ship, which had only six guns on the center, and two wing turrets that could only fire to their respective sides.  The Invincible had 31 boilers driving four turbine-powered shafts, generating anywhere from 41000 to 46000 shaft horsepower, nearly twice the shp of the Dreadnought.  As a result, the Invincible could make 25kts, and nearly reached 27kts during builder's trials.  Her larger cousin could only make 21kts.  But all that speed came at a dramatic cost.


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June 26, 2011

F1 Update!: Valencia 2011

The weather in Valencia was gorgeous as the 24 cars took to the grid, but would the sun shine on the polesitter Seb Vettel?  Or would someone show him the greyness of loss?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2011 Grand Prix of Europe @ Valencia!

*NOPE:  As the lights went out, Red Bull's Seb Vettel leaped from his slot on the grid and headed for the hills.  By the end of the first lap, he was well over a second ahead of his teammate Mark Webber, who was being hounded by Ferrari's HWMNBN.  From there, it was just a pleasant Sunday drive for the reigning World Champion, who went on to win with a grand total drama amount of zero.  10 seconds behind him was HWMNBN, who was 17 seconds ahead of Mark Webber's ailing RB7.  Nearly 20 seconds later, Lewis Hamilton's McLaren sauntered across the lane, followed five seconds later by Ferrari's Felipe Massa.  The man currently second in the world championship race, Jenson Button, finished the race in 6th place, exactly one full minute behind Vettel.

*THE BAD OLD DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN:  It wasn't all that long ago that we'd go entire races without seeing anything other than red hot pitstop action!!!  We've gotten spoiled, what with all this newfangled passing and excitement and on-track racing for position that we've had this season.  It took the efforts of a Valencia street circuit to show us what F1 used to be: mostly unexciting.  We here at F1U! are dyed-in-the-firesuit traditionalists, always have been, but we can do without a return to the past in this particular case.  F1, get rid of this miserable excuse for a track, please.

*FIRST EVER: F1 has been around for over 60 years.  It's seen some amazingly dominant drivers (Schumacher, Senna, St Fangio the Quick), but never before have we seen a run like the one Seb Vettel is on.  We're eight races in, and in those he's not finished lower than 2nd in any of them.  That's never been done before.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE: NKOTT.  The Toro Rosso driver started 18th on the grid and finished 8th.  He must have done something right.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  Red Bull.  In a race that was entirely decided in the pits, Red Bull consistently took tires off and replaced them in amazingly quick times.  Late in the race, where a mistake in the pits means lost time that could cost a driver a position or two, they got their men in and out in 3.2 seconds each.  Everybody else were around 3.4 or 3.5 seconds.  Yes, that's the sort of action we had today... red hot pit stop action!

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  When we're watching a race, the F1U! cohort is positioned with notebook in hand, ready to record anything of importance that occurs for easy reference later.  For Canada, there were six pages of notes, some with clarifying notations on the back of the previous page.  For Monaco, there were four pages.  For this race, there were two.  Not two pages, two notes.  Total.  One of them is for the DRS-assisted pass of Webber by HWMNBN on Lap 21 for 2nd place.  The other one is for Slappy Schumacher's pass of Adrian Sutil on Lap 15.  Neither was particularly exciting, dramatic, or even all that important.  Slappy gets the nod because he did his with his front wing dragging on the ground after he ran into The Red Menace as he exited the pits at the beginning of the lap.  Yay?

*MOOOOOOOO-OOOVE OF THE RACE:  Other than Slappy taking his own nose off on Lap 15 (see above), there really weren't any stupid driver tricks today.  So instead, here's Adrian Sutil with a pair of gag glasses.


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June 25, 2011

Saturday Night Tunage III

You've waited all week, and now it's finally here!  DJ Wonderduck is back with the third installment of Saturday Night Tunage, music to either get you in the mood for whatever event you have planned on this first full day of the weekend, or to provide you with a soundtrack for the evening! 

But enough of me jabbering away, let's get on with the tunage!  Maestro, if you please...?

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F1 Quals: Valencia 2011

A beautiful day at Valencia for the Qualifying round of the 2011 Grand Prix of Europe.  Would the rules changes make a difference, would it be much ado about nothing?  Let's take a look at the provisional grid:

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 1:39.116 1:37.305 1:36.975
2 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 1:39.956 1:38.058 1:37.163
3 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:39.244 1:37.727 1:37.380
4 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:39.725 1:37.930 1:37.454
5 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:38.413 1:38.566 1:37.535
6 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:39.453 1:37.749 1:37.645
7 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:39.266 1:38.373 1:38.231
8 Slappy Schumacher Mercedes 1:39.198 1:38.365 1:38.240
9 Grizzly Nick Heidfeld Renault 1:39.877 1:38.781 No time
10 Adrian F'n Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:39.329 1:39.034 No time
11 The Red Menace
Renault 1:39.690 1:39.068
12 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:39.852 1:39.422
13 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:39.602 1:39.489
14 Gandalf Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:40.131 1:39.525
15 Bhikshu Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1:39.690 1:39.645
16 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1:39.494 1:39.657
17 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 1:39.679 1:39.711
18 NKOTT STR-Ferrari 1:40.232

19 Heikki Kovalaineninnie Lotus-Renault 1:41.664

20 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1:42.234

21 Timo Glockenspiel Virgin-Cosworth 1:42.553

22 Vitantonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 1:43.584

23 Custard d'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1:43.735

24 Narain Kittylitter HRT-Cosworth 1:44.363

Q1 107% Time

A surprisingly undramatic Qualifying session today, to be honest.  There was a red flag in the middle of Q2 when Bhikshu Maldonado's Williams had a gearbox failure of some type, bringing him to a halt in the middle of the track.  Since they had to crane him off the course, the flag was thrown, but it was only for a couple of minutes and did not appear to disrupt anybody's qualifying plans.  Even Q3 felt unexciting: the most tension involved was wondering if Heidfeld and Sutil would come out for a lap in the session.  Neither did, realizing that the best they could likely do is ninth place.  By not coming out, they've protected a set of soft tires.  Kinda sad when that becomes more important than trying to improve your slot on the grid, but there you are.

The high point of Quals was undoubtedly Vettel's pole-winning lap, as it was the fastest a car has gone around the Valencia Street Circuit ever.  Nobody has broken into the 1:36s before the Red Bull did today.  So much for engine mapping restraints leashing the Bulls.

We don't know what the race will bring of course, but one would be a fool if you didn't think we'd have a Red Bull runaway.  Of course, Vettel has been hard-pushed the last two races and cracked under the pressure in Montreal, so it's not impossible that we'll have a good race.

We'll see tomorrow, and F1U! will be there as soon as we can... since the race is tape-delayed here in the US, it won't be starting until 11am Central.  See ya then!

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June 24, 2011

F1 Practice: Valencia 2011

So it was another dull practice session today, lots of cars just turning laps.  HWMNBN was fastest in P2, just ahead of Lewis Hamilton, Seb Vettel and Slappy Schumacher.  All four were separated by less than 6/10ths of a second, so it truly could be anybody on pole... if you put any stock in practice session times, which I don't.

However, this race will be the first with a new set of rules.  The FIA stepped down from on-high and decided that teams are no longer able to adjust electronic engine mapping between Quals and the race.  This actually makes sense.  Once Q1 begins and a car crosses the pit-out line, it is then considered to be in parc ferme condition and only the most minor changes can be made (wing settings, mostly).  After a car is eliminated from Quals (or makes it through Q3), the teams are basically unable to even touch the chassis.  Yet prior to this weekend, they could hook up a computer to the car and reprogram the Electronic Control Unit, basically telling the engine "hey, we want you to work this way now."  No longer.  There are pernicious rumors going around that this trick is one of the major reasons Red Bull has been so good in Quals: they had found a particularly hot combination of settings on their ECU.  It probably wouldn't last a full race distance without causing the engine to grenade, but it didn't have to: they could just change it to something more suitable for Sunday.  I don't know that I entirely believe it, yet it's awfully strange that their Renault engine outperforms RENAULT'S Renault engine.  Guess we'll find out on Saturday.

But that's not the only rule change coming down the pike, oh no.  Many teams have been doing some very clever things with their diffusers this season, directing their exhaust gases over it to get extra downforce.  Now, this seems counter-intuitive: you get the most powerful exhaust stream when you're accelerating, which is when you want it the least.  Conversely, when you're braking for a turn, you want more downforce, but you've probably got your foot off the throttle at that time, meaning less exhaust and therefore less downforce.  The engineering boffins have figured a way around this however, and now have a "constant flow" exhaust.  In effect, the same amount of exhaust is blown out the tailpipes, no matter how hard you're pressing the go-fast pedal.  If you've watched any races this season, you've surely noticed the flatulent sound that the Mercedes and McLaren make when they brake for a turn... that's from the constant flow exhaust kicking in.  At the beginning of the season, the FIA was fine with this, but they changed their mind a few races ago... effective at the next race (Silverstone), this technological trick is banned. 

As you can imagine, the teams are screaming bloody murder about these (mostly unprecedented) mid-season rules changes.  Particularly with the constant flow exhaust, their argument is that the removal of these things will make the cars much less balanced, and therefore less safe.  They have a point; F1 cars are remarkably sensitive to any changes in their aerodynamics.  While unlikely, it's not impossible that, say, the Red Bull chassis (for example) will become flat-out dangerous without this extra downforce.  Still the FIA is going ahead with it, and the teams much follow suit.  Please note that the Renault's forward-facing exhaust is not included in this... though if they're running the constant flow technology through it, that is.  The British GP might be even more interesting than normal.

This is going to be the first race where the hard tire will be the new medium compound rubber, which Pirelli has reformulated to last somewhat longer than it used to.  As we've seen in the past, however, the hard tire is still trending around 1.5 seconds slower than the softer rubber.  I suppose I really should use the phrasing that F1 uses to describe the tires: "Prime" for the harder tire and "Option" for the softer.  It might make it less confusing to... well, just about everyone.

Just like in Canada, there are two DRS activation zones, but only one detection zone.  The detection zone is, essentially, the bridge between Turns 9 and 10.  The activation zones are from just after Turn 11 to Turn 12, then from 14 to 17.  Once again, this means that someone can pass using DRS in the first stretch, then continue using the movable rear wing to create a bigger lead without fear of response.  I'm sure you're wondering just why they don't have two detection zones... as are we all.  Nobody knows for sure (and the FIA ain't tellin'), but the common wisdom appears to be that there's a problem on the FIA's end, either in the detection software or the actual computer.  Guys, here's an idea... spring for another computer, maybe a nice quad-core with more than a gigabyte of RAM.

Quals in the morning, see you then!

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June 23, 2011

Name This Mystery Ship VI

While we wait for my brain to function long enough to complete the battlecruiser post, I figured I'd give you folks a treat... another Mystery Ship contest!  Here's tonight's contestant:

Name the ship, win a post!  Operators are not standing by to take your call.

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June 21, 2011

A Plan Derailed

I have a post in the works about battlecruisers, but it's proving to be a lot more complicated than I expected.  Throw in the severe thunderstorms that have been dodging around Duckford for the past couple of hours, and I've been flummoxed at every turn.

Don't worry, however... it's coming soon.  These two'll make sure of it.

Yup.  I'm scared, I am.  Eek.

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June 20, 2011

F1 on TV!: Europe 2011

Their short North American sojourn completed, the F1 Circus returns to the Mother Continent this week with the 2011 Grand Prix of Europe.  The European GP has always been a way to get a second race into whatever country has the popular driver at the time... which is why Germany had two races during the height of the Schumi Years.  These days, it's HWMNBN... or at least, it was when the contracts were signed... which is why Spain now gets two races.  To accomplish this feat, Spanish organizers built an all-new track in Valencia, a street circuit!  And oh, did our hopes soar... only to be splatted to the ground like Icarus flying too close to the sun.  A fly being nailed by a flyswatter.  A X being Y'd by a Z (enter your own lousy analogy terms).  Let's take a look at this hope-crushing circuit:

By all rights, a layout like that looks like this should be exciting... like Monaco, but with substantial high-speed sections.  Unfortunately, it hasn't turned out that way.  What we've discovered is that there's just too many turns in just the wrong places.  For example, look at Turn 12: right at the end of the fastest part of the track, should be a great place to pass... except it's followed immediately by Turn 13, turning it into painfully slow chicane.  Anybody passing on the inside of 12 winds up on the outside of 13, where they usually get scraped off by the car being passed... except nobody actually tries passing there, because they know what'll happen.  And that's the problem all around the circuit: almost all the supposedly good passing points are actually soul-destroying chicanes!

At least, that's the way it used to be.  As we've learned this season, the KERS/DRS combination makes even the dull circuits at least mildly interesting.  Throw in the knowledge that Valencia is very wide for a street track and things are looking at least mildly hopeful again.  Pirelli is thinking that tire wear will be high due to the combination of the number of turns (the most in F1), a rough track surface, and the predicted high air temperatures.  They're bringing the Medium and Soft compounds this time around.

Of course, it's hard to forget the "highlight" of last year's race, and I'm not talking about Seb Vettel winning.  I'm talking about his teammate's unexpected peregrinations.

Yup, this is the circuit where Red Bull Air first took flight.  That was also the race that earned Kamui Kobayashi his nickname of "Gandalf."  So it's not been without excitement, it just hasn't been really racing-related.

We'll be treated to the lovely dulcet tones of the Legendary Announce Team as usual.  Alas, we'll be getting the race on tape-delay via FOX... but we'll get to that in a moment.  Coverage begins with live streaming of Friday's 1st Practice from 3am to 430am.  Practice 2 will be live on SPEED from 7am to 840am.  Saturday's 3rd Practice will be streaming as well, from 4am to 5am.  The all-important Quals session comes to us live on SPEED from 7am to 830am.

Finally, the race will be airing on your local FOX affiliate from 11am to 1pm, some five hours after it really begins.  All times are Pond Central, of course.

F1U! will be all over the race weekend, like a X is all over Z, with a side helping of µß.  We'll see you then!

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June 18, 2011

Saturday Night Tunage II

As the motivation to write anything in-depth and interesting seems to have departed my body as of right now, I've decided to do another Saturday Night Tunage post!  Come, be amazed at my myriad musical tastes!


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June 16, 2011

Just A Little Duck

(...in response to this)

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It's Time For A Show Of Hands

Okay, here's the gig.  As many of you know, I devoted a good three months of my life to the horror that is Rio Rainbow Gate!.  Tens of thousands of words, dozens of pictures, and many hours of agony were spent chronicling the so-called adventures of Rio Tachibana as she strove to become the Most Valuable Casino Dealer.  After the suffering was over, I even revisited Episodes 02 and 03, which I didn't review the first time around, just to be complete.

At which point, I figured I was done with the whole show and I could let the healing process begin.  But an unfortunate search of my archives for something completely unrelated to RRG! called my attention to an unsettling fact: in truth, my writeup for Episode 01 doesn't match the same theme or tone of the later ones.  In fact, it's downright evil in its vituperation for the show.  To be fair, I hadn't seen the whole series yet, hadn't truly embraced the stupid fun of its lack of seriousness, and hadn't yet had enough braincells killed off to appreciate it all.

So I come to you, my readers, with a question: do you want me to go back and do a full-fledged writeup of Rio Rainbow Gate! Episode 01, or are you tired of visiting Casino Island?  Leave your decision in the comments, please. 

My soul weeps, for I suspect I already know what the answer will be.

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June 14, 2011

Seat Swap: Hamilton vs Stewart

Every now and again, something particularly cool will trickle out of the motorsport world.  Some years ago, SPEED ran a TV show called "Tradin' Paint."  The concept behind it was simple: take two racers from different series and put them in the other driver's car.  In that one-hour event, they got what might have been the two most dissimilar drivers in the world, plunked 'em down on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's International Circuit, and let 'em loose.  The two drivers?  From NASCAR, Jeff Gordon.  And from Formula 1, Juan Pablo Montoya (aka "The Pope").  Neither driver did particularly well in the other car, it must be said: Gordon spun the 2002 Williams FW24, and Montoya never quite got the hang of the awful brakes on the Chevy; at one point, he flatspotted his tires so badly that the canvas backing was visible on the front-left corner.  Still, both drivers loved the experience, Montoya so much that a few years later, he quit F1 and jumped to NASCAR.

Today, it happened again.  The show was called "Seat Swap," and featured a pair of champions.  From the world of NASCAR, 2002 and 2005 champion Tony Stewart.  And from F1, 2008 World Driver's Champion Lewis Hamilton.

The venue was New York's Watkins Glen International Raceway, once home to the US Grand Prix, now a stop on NASCAR's calendar.  Stewart has won five times at "The Glen", though never on the full circuit (NASCAR does not use "the Boot" during their race).  Hamilton, of course, has never driven at The Glen before... F1 stopped coming to the circuit five years before he was born.  The machines couldn't have been any more different.  Stewart brought the road-race version of his 2011 Chevy Impala, and McLaren brought the MP4-23.  In case you're not up on your history, that's the 2008 chassis, the car with which Hamilton won his Championship.  The weather was iffy, to put it mildly.  As a result, the F1 car was using the full wet tires, and the NASCAR had rain tires, I assume from the Nationwide Series as the Sprint Cup won't race in the rain.  You'd think this would mean that Hamilton would have something of an advantage, but you'd be incorrect.  Stewart might be the best American racer of his generation.  Along with his two NASCAR titles, he's also won a championship in the Indy Racing League, midget cars, sprint cars and USAC Silver Crown cars.  In other words, he's got plenty of experience in open-wheel racing, and Indy cars are about as close to F1 cars as you'll find here in the US.  By contrast, Hamilton had never raced with a roof over his head.

Fortunately for everybody, when the time came for the two to switch rides, the track had dried off substantially.  I don't know if the two of them were kidding or what, but both drivers wanted to put on slick tires and go back out after their respective runs.  As it was, Stewart probably did a better job in the MP4-23 than Hamilton did in the Impala, but Lewis seemed to have had more fun.  Indeed, at one point during his laps, he was actually giggling into the radio as he proclaimed the stock car "Wicked!"  On his last lap, Stewart's crew called him into the pit lane.  Hamilton promptly said something to the effect of "Sorry, didn't hear you!" and turned another lap.  He then finished up with a respectable couple of donuts and a cloud of smoke.

Stewart on the other hand either couldn't figure out where the radio button was on the McLaren's steering wheel or was waaaaaay too busy actually driving to talk.  Either way, he was quite impressive behind the wheel of the F1 car, turning laps that would probably be competitive to other F1 drivers on this circuit... or, at least, not embarrassingly slow.  HRT or Virgin-level speed, let's say... not bad for only five laps' worth of experience in a F1 car.  Alas, no burnouts or donuts for Smoke.  I for one really wanted to see him try it.  An 18000 rpm burnout would be something to behold, particularly when the engine jumped out of the car and made a bid for freedom.  Hamilton's mechanics probably threatened him with painful painful things if he gave it a shot.

Both drivers had huge grins on their faces, both said things like "...the most fun I've had other than driving in (insert race series here)."  Stewart went one step farther, though... he invited Lewis Hamilton to partake in his annual charity race, The Prelude To The Dream.  That's a late-model dirt track race run before the NASCAR season kicks off, and he said that if Lewis wants to do it, there'll be a brand new car waiting for him.

I wanna see that.  Make it happen, Lewis, make it happen!!!

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June 12, 2011

F1 Update!: Montreal 2011

Rain.  We've wanted rain to make an appearance in the F1 season.  Rain makes every race better.  But what happens when you get too much rain?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2011 Grand Prix of Canada!

*SWIMMING POOL:  An hour before the start of the race, the skies opened up and dropped half the Atlantic Ocean on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.  As the field made its way to the grid, the decision was made to start the race behind the Safety Car.  This meant that, by rule, everybody had to start the race on the Full Wet tires, and that every lap turned behind Bernd Maylander would count against the 70-lap total.  For five laps, the field perambulated behind the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, the full wet tires creating an obviously dryer line on the track surface.  As the thundering herd approached the Hairpin on Lap 3, Maylander turned off the lights on the Safety Car and opened up the 6.2L V-8 engine to pull away while polesitter Seb Vettel slowed down, both to let the the SC get far enough away that the Red Bull would have a clear track for the start, and so he could decide when to step on the gas and gain an advantage over the two Ferraris following.  Except two-time World Driver's Champion HWMNBN had a different idea, staying glued to the young German's rear wing in an astonishing display of car control.  Everything Vettel did, the Ferrari driver matched for that half of a lap, never getting more than a car length behind yet never in danger of passing the Red Bull, which is a violation of Safety Car rules.  Indeed, he did such a good job of anticipating Vettel's tricks that as the two swept down the front straight, HWMNBN's nose was positioned just ahead of the Red Bull's rear tires... probably the best "restart" from behind the Safety Car we've ever seen.

*GREEN FLAG RACING:  It didn't last.  HWMNBN had to slot in behind Vettel as the two swept through Turns 1 and 2, giving the Red Bull pilot the ability to do what he does best: rocket away into the distance.  Behind him, McLaren's Lewis Hamilton bumps into Vettel's teammate Mark Webber in the first turn, sending the Red Bull into a graceful pirouette.  No damage to either car, but the Australian dropped to 15th place before he could rejoin the race.  For the next few laps, nothing happened as everybody tiptoed around the soggy track, trying to figure out what they could and could not get away with on the Pirelli galoshes.  At one point, Hamilton tried to go offline to pass the Mercedes of Slappy Schumacher through the Hairpin, the slowest point of the circuit, and still wound up staggering around like a drunkard.  On the next lap, Vettel, despite having nobody in front of him and therefore with no spray from other cars in his face, completely blew his braking into Turn 7 and had to cut across the grass, just pointing out how messy the track was.  Despite this, he still had a clear four-second lead over the the second place Ferrari of HWMNBN, and looked like he wasn't ever going to be caught.  But this is Canada, birthplace of the Safety Car... surely something would happen to bring Bernd Maylander back out.

*THE NUMBER ONE RULE OF RACING...:  "Don't wreck your teammate."  That's what everybody says is the first rule of racing.  You can wreck yourself, you can punt other cars into the next country over, but if you so much as breathe funny on your teammate, you're opening yourself up to a world of criticism.  So it should come as no surprise that Lewis Hamilton, frustrated by Seb Vettel's utter domination of the 2011 season to date and recently voted "Most Likely To Drive Like His Hair Is On Fire, If He Had Any Hair, Which He Doesn't", would do something dumb.  On Lap 8, as the McLarens driven by Jenson Button and Hamilton swept down the front straight, Hamilton tried to get by his teammate to the inside.  Button moved over to make it a challenge, and instead of playing it cool, Hamilton decided to barge on through.  As Hamilton drove onto the grass, the two McLarens touched.  Button drove on, screaming into his radio "...what is he, crazy?!??!".  On the other hand, his teammate's car smacked into the inside wall, sending the various team's signboard holders scrambling for cover as he scraped by them.  His left rear wheel deranged, he tried to make it around back around to the pits, but only made it a few turns before he had to stop on track.  Out came the Safety Car for the second time.

*GREEN AGAIN:  This time, Bernd Maylander led the race for five laps as the marshals disposed of the broken McLaren.  Behind him, Seb Vettel led HWMNBN, and Felipe Massa, while Jenson Button came around and into the pits for a quick checkover and to become the first to switch to Intermediate tires.  Once the Safety Car came in, the leading three blast away from the rest of the pack, while Vettel once again shows that he's got the better car, putting 1.5 seconds between him and the Ferraris in one lap.  Button, on the other hand, begins to rip off laps nearly two seconds faster than anybody on the full wets but is hit with a drive-through penalty for speeding behind the Safety Car.  Whoops.  He serves the penalty and rejoins in 15th.  There's a mass exodus to the pit lane as teams decide it's safe to put on Intermediate tires.  By Lap 18 however, Vettel leads Massa by nearly seven seconds.  Gandalf Kobayashi follows the Ferrari, but is still on the full wet tires.  Mark Webber and HWMNBN round out the top five.

*AND THEN...:  On Lap 20, the skies decide to drop the other half of the Atlantic Ocean on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.  Once again, Bernd Maylander brought out the Safety Car, leading to yet another mad scramble for the pits and full wet tires.  Vettel manages to get in and out while remaining in the lead, but Massa loses 2nd to Gandalf, who doesn't need to pit; he's still on the rubber he started with.  Then, much to everybody's surprise, the rain got even harder.  Even though he was the leader and therefore had nobody but Maylander in front of him, Seb Vettel radios in that he can't see a darn thing, while Jenson Button complains that he's aquaplaning down the track.  On Lap 25, some bright spark realizes that the track is undriveable and throws the red flag, halting the race.

*IT FELL, AND FELL, AND FELL SOME MORE...:  The field came to a halt on the front straight, with everybody supposed to stop in the grid spot that equated to their position: First place in the first grid slot, second in the second slot, and so on.  Felipe Massa, apparently unable to count to "three", just sort of stopped where he felt like, leading Rob Smedley, his head engineer, to call to him over the radio: "...is it so hard, Felipe?"  Cue peals of laughter amongst the Legendary Announce Team.  And with that began the longest red flag period in Formula 1 history.  For two hours and 14 minutes, the field sat on the grid, umbrellas over the cockpits and tarps over the backs of the cars as the rain continued to pelt down.  After a couple of recaps of what had gone on so far, the Legendary Announce Team was reduced to showing clips of past races, praising Montreal to the heavens, and making shadow puppets.  Oh, and Rhianna visited the McLaren pits.  Cue plenty of "Umbrella ella ella ella" jokes.  What F1 needs for rain delays is what baseball has: players sliding headlong into big puddles.  We here are F1U! would pay good money to see Slappy bellyflop like that.

*FINALLY:  After two hours of watching Canadians with brooms trying to push water off the track, they finally decided to restart the race behind the Safety Car.  Once again, we were treated to the sight of Bernd Maylander leading the 23 most expensive, technically advanced race cars in the world... in a street-legal car you could, in theory, walk into a Mercedes dealer and buy.  For ten laps we get this pleasure, full wet tires pumping the rain off the racing line and accomplishing more in a few minutes than the Squeegee Patrol managed in two hours.  But all good things come to an end, and on Lap 35 the SLS AMG turned off its lights and let Seb Vettel take over the field.  Immediately, a quarter of the field dove into the pits to make the switch to Inters.  On Lap 36, Jenson Button pits to do the same, his fourth stop of the day if you include his earlier drive-through penalty.  He rejoins just behind HWMNBN, and is obviously faster than the Ferrari driver. 

*OH COME ON:  On Lap 37, Seb Vettel is still on the full wet tires, still cranking out quick laps, but he's intentionally driving off the racing line, trying to keep the rubber wet and cool.  It's obvious that he's going to need to pit soon, which would throw the entire field into a cocked hat.  And then Button tried to pass HWMNBN in the first chicane.  The two cars collide, sending the Ferrari into a spin that ends up with the Spaniard high-centered on the curb.  And once again, Bernd Maylander takes to the track!  Button limps around to the pits, is pronounced fit to continue, but rejoins dead last on the grid.  Meanwhile, Seb Vettel took advantage of the Safety Car to change to Inters and rejoin without losing first place.  This time, the SC comes in on Lap 41, with Vettel still leading Gandalf and Massa.

*RACING, WHAT A CONCEPT:  Surprisingly, we go for 13 laps before anything weird happens.  The racing line was dry enough for people to try slicks, and they worked well: nearly three seconds a lap faster than either of the two types of galoshes.  It was on these that Button began working his way up the field, taking 10th place on Lap 49, and coming on like a freight train.  On Lap 54, Felipe Massa found his way blocked by the HRT of Narain Kittylitter as he chased after Gandalf and Sebby.  Going off the dry line to get past, the Ferrari snapped viciously into the wall on the right side of the track, sending the car's front wing off into the forest and actually damaging the nosecone in the process.  He'd continue, but would be out of the running.  Button makes yet another pitstop for tires, his sixth of the day.

*WHO HERE IS SURPRISED, RAISE YOUR HAND:  A lap later, Grizzly Nick Heidfeld bangs into the back of Gandalf.  The Renault's front wing detaches, slips under the front tires, and virtually explodes as the uncontrollable car plows into the wall.  And once again, the Safety Car is summoned, this time because of all the carbon fiber debris scattered across the track.  The standings at this point are Vettel, Slappy Schumacher, Mark Webber... and Jenson Button, having the drive of his life at this point.  The Safety Car stays on the track until Lap 61, but not without incident.  On Lap 59, before the entire field had been gathered up by the Mighty Maylander, track marshals ran out to start picking up debris from Heidfeld's front wing.  One of the marshals, apparently wearing super-soft shoes or unfamiliar with the concept of gravity, took a header... right in front of the fast-approaching Sauber of Gandalf Kobayashi.

Only fast braking and a quick swerve saved us from a Montreal Marshal Massacre. 

*THIS TIME FOR SURE: With nine laps to go, the race restarted.  Webber and Slappy immediately begin fighting each other tooth and nail for second place, letting Vettel fly away unfettered.  Jenson Button is right there behind the two, looking for an opening.  On Lap 65, the Red Bull driver, under pressure from the McLaren, blows the final chicane and lets Button past.  A lap later, Button barely notices when he go by the Mercedes and into second, so great is his advantage.  However, he's a few seconds behind Vettel.

*AND THEN...:  On Lap 67, Button turns the fastest lap of the race at 1:17.5, a full second-and-a-half faster than Vettel.  On Lap 68, he does it again.  And again on Lap 69.  Just like that, it's the final lap and Button is less than a second behind the reigning World Driver's Champion.  Suddenly, it's Monaco all over again: Vettel has the lead, Button has fresher tires.  Button is driving as if he's on rails, while the Red Bull is slipping all over the place.  Into Turn 7, the inevitable happens and Sebby slides juuuuuust a bit wide, his tires giving up altogether.  He gets into the wet part of the track, and suddenly he's fighting to keep from spinning while Button sweeps past, taking the lead for the first time today.  From dead last on Lap 50.  A few turns later, the McLaren takes the checkered flag a full two seconds ahead of Vettel, winning in four hours, 14 minutes, 39 seconds: the longest race in F1 history.  Seb comes in second, followed by Webber, Slappy, and the Red Menace.  Behind the Renault, Felipe Massa and Gandalf are sprinting for the finish line, with the Ferrari beating the Sauber for 6th place by five-hundreds of a second, ending the drama of a fantastic race.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Jenson Button.  SIX pit stops, one drive-through penalty, and still going from last to first in 20 laps?  Oh yeah, driver of the race, right there.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  Red Bull.  Okay, they didn't win, but second-third is still a pretty good result, particularly when your closest rival only has one car finish, further solidifying your position in the Constructor's Championship. 

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  On Lap 51, Slappy Schumacher was in 4th place, behind a dueling Gandalf and Felipe Massa.  Coming out of a turn, Schumi began a pass on Massa just as the Sauber driver slid a bit wide.  Massa took advantage by passing Gandalf while being passed by the Mercedes driver, a brilliant bit of opportunistic driving by the seven-time World Champion, and a small example of his past talents.  It drew a "Holy Sh*t!" from the F1U! team, a jaded bunch of plonkers, that's how good it was.

*MOOOOOOOOO-OOOOVE OF THE RACE: (please see "The Number One Rule of Racing..." above)

Good jorb, Lewis.  Still, you got to hang out with Rhianna... that's gotta count for something.  Here's your Mooooooooo-oooove.


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Now THAT Was A Race!

The Canadian GP had just about everything you could possibly have in one race!

I need a cigarette!  Was it good for you?

F1U! coming tonight... this is gonna be a long writeup.

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Montreal Monsoon

Less than an hour before the 2011 Canadian Grand Prix and it's pouring down rain at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.  Of course, it may stop before the race, but the track'll still be damp.  Ladies and Gentlemen, we've got ourselves a wet race! 
UPDATE: Forgot to mention the little detail that, as long as anybody on-track is using galoshes, DRS is disabled entirely.

Also, Custard d'Ambrosio has been permitted to take to the grid for the race.  The stewards decided that, since he needed to have a backup car built for him after his wreck on Friday (the monocoque was broken!), his pace was acceptable in Quals.  He'll start 24th. 

More after the race with F1 Update!

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June 11, 2011

Saturday Night Tunage

No, not "Saturday Night Tuna," tunage!  I haven't done a good music post in a while, and since I don't want to work on the two long anime posts I've got on my mind, this would be a good time!

Click below for an... interesting... assortment of music!

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F1 Quals: Canada 2011

Leaden, heavy skies awaited the F1 Circus as Quals for the 2011 Grand Prix of Canada got underway, but would the rain come?  Or would the galoshes come out for the first time this year?  Let's take a look at the provisional grid:

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 1:14.011 1:13.486 1:13.014
2 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:13.822 1:13.672 1:13.199
3 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:14.026 1:13.431 1:13.217
4 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 1:14.375 1:13.654 1:13.429
5 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:14.114 1:13.926 1:13.565
6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:14.920 1:13.950 1:13.814
7 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:14.374 1:13.955 1:13.838
8 Slappy Schumacher Mercedes 1:14.970 1:14.242 1:13.864
9 Grizzly Nick Heidfeld Renault 1:15.096 1:14.467 1:14.062
10 The Red Menace
Renault 1:14.699 1:14.354 1:14.085
11 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:14.874 1:14.752
12 Subdeacon Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1:15.585 1:15.043
13 Gandalf Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:15.694 1:15.285
14 Adrian F'n Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:14.931 1:15.287
15 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 1:15.901 1:15.334
16 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:15.331 1:15.361
17 Pete Rose
Sauber-Ferrari 1:16.229 1:15.587
18 NKOTT STR-Ferrari 1:16.294

19 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1:16.745

20 Heikki Kovalainenninnie Lotus-Renault 1:16.786

21 Vitantonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 1:18.424

22 Timo Glockenspiel Virgin-Cosworth 1:18.537

23 Narain Kittylitter HRT-Cosworth 1:18.574

Custard d'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1:19.414

Q1 107% Time

Okay yes, Seb Vettel is on pole for the sixth time in seven races, and yes, his lap was the fastest this track has seen since 2004 when F1 was in the middle of a tire war, used V-10 engines and had huge wings.  But the two Ferrari drivers made him work for it.  Indeed, both Felipe Massa and HWMNBN were on pole at various times in Q3.  Vettel actually had to come out for a second hot lap, something he hasn't done for a couple of races... meaning that he won't have that unused set of super-soft tires in pocket tomorrow.  Tracks like Montreal don't really suit the Red Bull chassis, which performs better on low speed circuits.  I think this pole lap was probably Vettel's best of the season; he looked so smooth and controlled out there, like he wasn't under any pressure whatsoever. 

Yet Ferrari very nearly took the front row from him.  Both look strong, but whether that's because the car works well on a low fuel load or if it can truly duel with the Red Bull, we won't discover until tomorrow. 

And what of the McLarens?  The two of them have to be running a lot of rear wing, for they were dreadfully slow through the speed trap (~190mph, when the Force Indias are over 200).  That's great for traction, but then why did they still look twitchy through the chicanes?  I can only assume they are running a wet setup on Hamilton's and Button's cars.  It's a gamble, but if the rains come they'll be in the catbird seat.  And the weather forecast suggests it will rain at some time during Sunday's race.

Further down the grid, bonus points to Pete Rose for making it to Q2.  He was given roughly 10 minutes to get ready going into P2, it took the team over an hour to modify the cockpit to fit him (he's nearly six inches taller than the driver he's replacing), he'd never been in the 2011 Sauber challenger, and they didn't even have a Sauber firesuit for him.  Yet he still made it out of Q1.  Pretty spiffy, that. 

Unfortunately, it looks like we'll only have a 23-car grid.  Custard d'Ambrosio just couldn't figure out the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and his time falls below the 107% mark.  Unlike in Monaco where HRT was allowed to race because their pace in P3 was faster than their Quals time, Custard hasn't been fast all weekend.  Look for him to be on the sidelines when the lights go out on Sunday.

We'll see you then!

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June 10, 2011

F1 Practice: Canada 2011

To say that this was a weird practice session today in Montreal would be something of an understatement.  The dominant color of the day would have to have been red.  Red for the three flags brought out for crashes by Red Bull's Seb Vettel, Sauber's Gandalf Kobayashi, and Custard d'Ambrosio's Virgin.  And red for the color of the fast car of the day, HWMNBN's Ferrari.  P2 in particular was a sloppy, stop-and-start affair that really prevented the teams from getting data on long runs.

Sauber is probably the big loser in P2.  Of course, Gandalf power-sanded the right side of his car into dust against the wall.  Then, they learned that Sergio Perez won't be racing this weekend, as he's still recovering from the concussion he suffered in Quals at Monaco.  Before today, he had been cleared for action by the FIA's medical staff, and he gave it a shot with some twenty laps in P1.  There's just no way to predict how someone will react to the real-life stresses of racing a F1 car at top speed, what with the g-loading that wants to rip your head off.  After P1, he went to the team and said that he couldn't do it, he wasn't feeling 100%.  Smart move by the rookie, that.  Unfortunately, Team Sauber don't have their third driver, Esteban Gutierrez, in Canada this weekend.  Would have been interesting to see the kid, but that's the way it goes.  In Perez's stead, Sauber has asked McLaren for permission to borrow their test driver for the rest of the weekend, and McLaren assented.  His name?  Pedro de la Rosa.  That's right everybody, Pete Rose is back again! 

They're expecting rain both Saturday and Sunday... last race saw our first Safety Car of the year.  Will we get our first glimpse of the wet tires this week?

In other news from the F1 world...

Bahrain, which was a no-go, then a go-go, is now a no-no.  The screams of protest from the drivers (led by Mark Webber), the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA), and the fans were all set to be completely ignored by both Birdy Ecclestone and the FIA... but then Bahrain race organizers pulled the plug on the race this year.  Seems they couldn't guarantee the safety of the drivers... or something like that.  Color me surprised.

Then there's Virgin Racing.  For the entirety of their short existence, their cars have been designed by Nick Wirth. Wirth is F1's leading proponent of designing using computer simulation only... no wind tunnels for Nick's cars, no sirree!  Well, Virgin has decided that being the worst team on the grid is getting kinda old and bid Wirth farewell.

Quals aren't until the afternoon on Saturday; we'll be here immediately thereafter!  Don't forget that this is the weekend for the 24 Hours of LeMans, my favorite race of the year... yes, it's not all F1 around Pond Central!

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June 09, 2011

Misunderstanding Midway

Down in the comments section of the post "The Reason for Midway", there's a sight to warm the heart of any blogger: an energetic argument discussion.  Longtime readers CXT and Avatar are doing a fine job of carrying the flag of disagreement with Bob, I wanted to pay closer attention to something he said at the very beginning of his comments.  To whit:

"These discussions are interesting but so narrow as to be misleading.  The entire Midway exercise didn't matter, regardless of outcome."

It will come as no surprise to readers of The Pond that I vehemently disagree with this statement.  To be honest, in one way I do agree with Bob in that Japan had no chance of winning an overall military victory against the forces of the United States, Britain, Australia and the Dutch.  However, that does not mean that Midway didn't matter, any more than it means that Guadalcanal/the Solomon Islands, Leyte Gulf, Iwo Jima, Tarawa, or even Attu and Kiska, didn't matter.

Once the first A6M2s, D3A1s and B5N2s lifted off from the Akagi, Kaga, Hiryu, Soryu, Shokaku and Zuikaku on their way to Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, sterile discussions over such concepts that Bob mooted became academic: win or lose, the die was cast and everything mattered.  Only in hindsight can we say "it was pointless and the Pacific War shouldn't have been started".  The fact of the matter is that it did start, men did fight, and it did matter... every bullet fired, every torpedo launched, every bomb dropped, every grenade thrown, mattered.

It mattered to 3400 men at Midway.  29000 men at Iwo Jima.  38000 men at Guadalcanal.  7000 men in the Aleutians.  12000 at Peleliu.  And hundreds of thousands more at dozens of other locations across the Pacific.

To suggest that these battles "didn't matter", no matter how large the stack of scholarship one may bring to the table, is ridiculous and insulting to those who participated and survived, those who were there and were injured, and to those who fought and died on both sides.  Don't take my word for it, however... walk up to a Pacific War veteran and tell him his actions didn't matter.  Just let me know where and when you intend to do it, so I can bring popcorn.

Regarding the first part of Bob's statement, it seems clear that he doesn't read The Pond overmuch.  Very nearly by definition, I blog about "the narrow", because that's where my interests lie.  Sure, I could write about the geopolitical situation surrounding the beginning of WWII in the Pacific, but I'd hate every moment of it.  I'm an amateur historian of the military actions of the Pacific War, with an emphasis on naval battles, and a particular emphasis on the Battle of Midway, because that's what I like... and I write about what I like.  I won't apologize for being "too narrow" for someone's taste.

Particularly when it "doesn't matter".

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