July 31, 2011

F1 Update!: Hungary 2011

In the 25 year history of the Hungarian Grand Prix, there had only been one wet race, 2006.  That year, Jenson Button, then driving for BAR Honda, started very far back on the grid and through fine use of his wet-weather tires earned his first Grand Prix victory.  Today, despite weather forecasts calling for sunny skies, rain was falling in Budapest as Jenson Button, now driving for McLaren, took to the grid for his 200th Grand Prix start.  Would history repeat itself?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2011 Grand Prix of Hungary!

*FALLING SKIES:  Indeed, rain was falling lightly as the cars took to the track for their reconnaissance lap to the grid.  When the cars rolled off on the parade lap, everybody was on the Intermediate tires... but the rain had stopped, and nobody could say what the weather was going to do next.  By the time the parade lap was complete and the drivers were awaiting the extinguishing of the lights, there was already the faintest hint of a dry line on the circuit.  For both the men in the cockpits and the men on the pit wall, this was the worst of all possible scenarios.

*AND WE'RE OFF: Red Bull's Seb Vettel led the the two McLarens into the first turn, and us jaded watchers in the F1U! war room pretty much expected him to run away and hide.  After all, he's been one of the better wet-weather drivers on the grid in recent years.  Meanwhile to nobody's surprise, Vettel's teammate Mark Webber had another of his patented Lousy Starts©, dropping to approximately 94th position... or 8th, if you want to be picky about it. 

*BUT...:  Not only didn't Vettel gap the field, it very quickly became clear that he was actually holding up the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton!  For the first four laps, it looked like the Glare On Wheels was attached to the Red Bull by a tow bar, so firmly was Hamilton stuck to the rear of Vettel.  On Lap 4 Hamilton nearly pulled off a pass going down into Turn 2, but had to back down.  In the same place on Lap 5, he tried again... and Vettel lost grip on the wet pavement and staggered wide, letting the 2008 World Champion by with nary a shout.  In fact, he nearly let the McLaren of Jenson Button, shadowing the two in third place, get by while recovering.  By the start of the sixth lap, Hamilton had a 2.5 second lead, and showed no sign of slowing up.

*HOW DRY I AM: On lap 11, with very little to lose Mark Webber became the first driver to risk shedding his galoshes and tried on the super-soft tires.  A lap later, so did Button from third, and then everybody else came in the next lap.  The order remained Hamilton, Vettel and Button... until Button blew the metaphorical doors off the reigning World Champion to take 2nd place.  Meanwhile, in all the scramble and hubbub in the pits, Webber ripped off some blistering laps and wound up in fourth.  Gamble won for the Aussie.

*RENAULT FLAMBE:  The day had not been going well for Grizzly Nick Heidfeld.  Nowhere near the top 10, with no visible hope of improving much, he ducked into the pits for another set of tires.  A recalcitrant wheelnut kept him in the box for a long stop... just long enough for the Renault's forward-facing exhaust to begin burning sidepod carbon fiber.  As he was released from the stop, smoke and some sparks were visible, and by the time he reached the end of the pitlane, it was clear something was very very wrong.  When he pulled over onto the grass, things got even worse.

Heidfeld quickly scrambled out of the car and headed for the hills, unharmed but lightly toasted.  As he ran towards the armco, track marshals ran towards the now merrily burning Renault with fire extinguishers.  Soon, most of the fire was out, and it became a case of preventing it from restarting.  A marshal went around to the left-hand side of the car and hosed down the most obviously burned part of the sidepod...

Reports are that the extinguisher spray hit a superheated aluminum bottle of nitrogen, used to pneumatically actuate the cams in the engine, that through last season was kept inside the monocoque.  This year, Renault moved the bottle to the outside of the cockpit, inside the sidepod.  The sudden blast of cold fluid, combined with the heat expansion of the nitrogen inside the aluminum bottle, caused the bottle to fail explosively.  While debris was scattered some 20 feet onto the track and the marshal suffered some minor leg injuries from carbon fiber shrapnel, all was basically okay.  Dramatic, though. (UPDATE: Video can be found here)

*MORE DRAMA:  On Lap 45, Hamilton still led Button by some 6.5 seconds, followed by Vettel, HWMNBN and Webber.  Nobody else is within 50 seconds of the leader... but there is trouble in the air.  Specifically, a light rain shower had begun to fall on the back half of the track.  Hamilton looped his car in the sudden slickness, letting his teammate by for the lead, but gets back on the pace before Vettel can catch him.  On Lap 50, Button returns the favor by sliding wide in a puddle and Hamilton regained the lead.  At this moment, the race seemed poised on a knife's edge.  If the rain continued, you'd have to go onto Intermediate tires just to stay on the track... but if it didn't, the slicks would remain the way to go.  On Lap 52, Webber again made the call first and went for the Inters.

*SNAKE-EYES: On Lap 53, the McLaren pitwall got on the radio to their drivers: pit for Intermediate tires.  Hamilton dove in, but Jenson Button stayed out on the slicks to retake the lead.  Suddenly every eye in Budapest was affixed to the skies... would it or wouldn't it continue to rain?  In two laps, as HWMNBN made easy work of the galoshes-shod McLaren, it became obvious that Button, not Hamilton, had made the right call.  Hamilton went back into the pits for dry tires, then was told he'd have to make a drive-through penalty for his actions during his spin recovery on Lap 45.  He would rejoin the race in 6th, never again to be a threat.

*THE END:  Button eased off on the final lap, allowing Vettel to close to within 3.5 seconds as they crossed the finish line, but it wasn't really that close.  Ferrari's HWMNBN crossed the line 20 seconds later in third.  Hamilton, taking advantage of Webber's Red Bull in traffic, managed to finish fourth, nearly 50 seconds adrift, with Webber a second behind him.  Some 30 seconds after that came Felipe Massa's Ferrari, some two years after he was nearly killed at this track.

*OH, ONE MORE THING:  The Hungarian Grand Prix saw the title hopes of 17 drivers dashed.  The only people mathematically in contention now are the drivers of the Red Bulls, McLarens, Ferraris and Nico Rosberg.

: The Hungaroring horks up a good race only when it rains.  The first time it happened was 2006; Jenson Button won that one too.  A superb drive from the 2009 World Champion, who made the right call to stay out despite ominous skies... a call that won him the race.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  McLaren.  Red Bull still has the lead in both the Drivers and Constructors championships, but the gap is closing.  At least for the moment, it looks like McLaren has caught the leaders on the track, and their drivers are showing that they, not the Red Bull men, are the class of the field.  Might make for an interesting second half, that.

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  While serving Lap 64, Lewis Hamilton was hotly pursuing Mark Webber for fourth when they came upon Gandalf Kobayashi, who was trying to make a set of tires go some 30 laps... and failing miserably.  He'd lost five places in two laps as the two heavy hitters came up behind him.

Knowing that Gandalf was there, Hamilton dove to the inside of Webber.  Just for an instant, the Red Bull driver was pinned in place, unable to get out from behind the Sauber.

Quick as a flash, Hamilton zipped by Webber for fourth place.

For taking advantage of of the prevailing terrain (the Sauber Rolling Chicane?), we hereby bestow the MotR upon Lewis Hamilton.

*MOOOOOOOO-OOOOVE OF THE RACE:  Yes, we know it was damp and slippery out there.  Yes, we understand that the racing surface is different than the surface in the pit lane.  Yes, we are also aware that the paint on the pitlane gets even more slippery when it's wet.  But c'mon, Custard d'Ambrosio, it's not like you're driving on an olive oil-covered ice rink.

Spinning in the pit lane and sending your crew scrambling for cover?  Yes, you'd best believe that's a Mooooooooo-oooo.  Way to go!

No driver quotes, as this F1U! is late enough as it is.  F1 now enters its summer vacation period, so our next race isn't until the end of August!  Oh, but it's a special one... because we'll be in Spa-Francopants!  See you then and there!

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F1 Update!: Hungary 2011 Delayed

Pond Central is having serious problems with its broadband connection. I still hope to get the F1U! up tonight, but have no idea if it'll really happen. Sorry about that.

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July 30, 2011

Space Battleship Yamato Live Action Movie

I don't think it's possible to be an anime fan of my generation and not be at least a little familiar with Space Battleship Yamato or its bastardized American version Star Blazers.  While I've never been a fan, growing up I certainly saw a few episodes of one or the other.  However, I understand that it's hugely popular in Japan, and to a certain extent, here as well.  Back in January of 2010, a teaser was released for a live action movie version of Space Battleship Yamato to great fanfare.  When the movie itself was released, it outgrossed the second-to-last Harry Potter film in Japan.  It was released on Blu-Ray a little over a month ago.  Yesterday, it hit the torrent sites.

In some ways, I'm not the person who should be reviewing this film.  After all, as I mentioned before I was never a fan of the original anime series.  I can't stand up and say "Oh, that targeting unit is in the wrong place, RAGE HAET ARRRRRRRGH!"  In other ways, however, I'm perfect... because I can't stand up and say "Oh, that targeting unit is in the wrong place."  I can just sit back and enjoy the movie as a movie, and criticize it fairly.  But I DO know enough about the series that I've got a sense of what it's trying to represent.  And how does it translate to the big screen?


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F1 Quals: Hungary 2011

Over the past six years, only once has the Hungarian Grand Prix been won by the polesitter.  So qualifying isn't that important, right?  Well, those other five races were won by the driver sitting second... so yeah, kinda important.  Let's see the provisional grid:

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 1:21.740 1:21.095 1:19.815
2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:21.636 1:21.105 1:19.978
3 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:22.038 1:20.578 1:20.024
4 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:22.130 1:21.099 1:20.350
5 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:21.578 1:20.262 1:20.365
6 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 1:22.208 1:20.890 1:20.474
7 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:22.996 1:21.243 1:21.098
8 Adrian F'n Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:22.237 1:22.000 1:21.445
9 Slappy Schumacher Mercedes 1:22.876 1:21.852 1:21.907
10 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1:23.067 1:22.157 No time
11 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:22.976 1:22.256
12 The Red Menace
Renault 1:23.070 1:22.284
13 Gandalf Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:23.278 1:22.435
14 Grizzly Nick Heidfeld Renault 1:23.024 1:22.470
15 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:23.075 1:22.684
16 NKOTT STR-Ferrari 1:23.285 1:22.979
17 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1:23.847 No time

18 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 1:24.070

19 Heikki Kovalaineninnie Lotus-Renault 1:24.362

20 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1:24.534

21 Tim O'Glockenspiel Virgin-Cosworth 1:26.294

22 Vitantonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 1:26.323

23 Daniel Ricciardo HRT-Cosworth 1:26.479

24 Custard d'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1:26.510

Q1 107% Time

Yep, Vettel's back on pole, his eighth of the season.  But it wasn't until the final hot lap of Q3 that he had shown any real sort of pace, and he was still slower than #2 Lewis Hamilton in the Hungaroring's first and third timing sectors.  Then you have Jenson Button located right behind Vettel on the grid?  I'd say McLaren's back on the pace, yes. 

Meanwhile, Mark Webber has to be wondering which Elder God he's pissed off this week.  Sixth?  That's the best he could do?  When his teammate took pole?  C'mon, Mark... you're a likable guy, you're the underdog on your own team, you've got five-sixths of the world pulling for you, and this is the best you could do?  Perhaps more surprising is Felipe Massa coming home fourth... and beating HWMNBN in Quals for the first time this season.

You may notice Sergio Perez sitting there at 10th didn't set a time during Q3.  My suspicion is that he saw the true heavy hitters (McLaren, Ferrari, Red Bull) out there throwing haymakers at each other and decided, "y'know, I think I'll just save my tires."  For most of the session, it looked like the two Mercedes drivers and Adrian F'n Sutil felt the same, cowering in their garages while the big boys engaged in their own private war.  It wasn't until the last minute possible that they came out, which makes me wonder why they even bothered.  Is Rosberg really going to make a difference from seventh, for example?  I don't understand exactly what they're doing there, but I'm not a F1 team strategist; it's probably something really deep and... um... strategery-like.

Race is on Sunday, and F1U! will be along sometime thereafter.  See you then!

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July 29, 2011

F1 Practice: Hungary 2011

Welcome to the Hungaroring, the circuit of milk and honey! 

No, I can't do it.  There's just no way I can keep up the happy-go-lucky attitude about the Hungarian Grand Prix.  It's slow, it's twisty, there's only one passing point, argh.  There was even less going on in 2nd Practice than normal.  We did get a look at the new version super-soft tires from Pirelli, and they do seem like they'll last slightly longer than the six or eight laps they used to do.  Yay?

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton led both practice sessions on Friday, second practice with a 1:21 and change.  If my math is correct, the 107% rule would take out four cars: O'Glockenspiel, d'Ambrosio, Ricciardo, and Liuzzi.  In other words, both Virgins and both HRTs.  Which is weird, because slower tracks like this one should be better for the slower teams, not worse... unless the miserable twistybits are just kneecapping the less-than-nimble new teams (minus Lotus, of course).  While you've gotta go slow to go fast, there's such a thing as going too slow.  We'll find out the ultimate result during Quals on Saturday morning, of course.

In other news, Jarno Trulli is back in the Lotus after a one-race vacation, and shock of shocks, he's praising the team for the improvements they've made to the power steering!  Of course, this has nothing to do with his incessant complaining earning him that one-race vacation.

Unfortunately, it looks like we're to have a dry race on Sunday.  Alas.

In other important news, F1 has released a revised calendar for the 2012 season.  Instead of the 21 races originally scheduled, it's now going to be 20 as Turkey is to be axed.  That's a shame, because it's a fun circuit, but nobody ever went to the race and rising fees seem to be pricing the race out of F1.  The good news is that the United States Grand Prix has been moved.  No longer are they going to Austin Texas at the end of June/beginning of July!  Now it'll be November 18th, which makes MUCH more sense: it won't be 215 degrees during race weekend.  For what it's worth, that removes the second biggest obstacle to F1U! taking a fieldtrip (the biggest obstacle is fundage).

As mentioned, Quals in the morning, we'll see you then!

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July 27, 2011

Speaking About Blogging

The more regular of you, my readers, probably need less fiber in your diet likely have noticed a decline in the amount of posting going on here at The Pond in recent weeks.  This is a direct reflection of the amount of time and energy I have these days.  Thanks to the situation at work, I get home, make something to eat, then collapse in front of the telly.  Generally I'm out of Pond Central by 8am or so, and get home somewhere between 630pm and 7pm. 

In between, I'm trying to do the job of two people.  One of the jobs, my usual, is running the sales floor, training the two temps we've hired for the beginning of the school year, helping customers, unboxing inbound shipments, and on and on.  The other job is that of Manager until we get a new one, which is looking like it won't happen after the school year starts.  At this time of year, that job is basically one of paperwork; dealing with faculty that haven't told us what books they want to use, ordering textbooks, receiving (though I do/did a lot of that, too), coping with vendors, so on and so forth.

Problem is, the two jobs are not compatible at this time of year.  One requires that one spends their entire day on the telephone and computer, the other needs be on the sales floor the whole time.  As a result, it seems like a miracle I get anything accomplished in either job.  Is it any surprise I'm wasted by the time I get home?  I'm not even watching much in the way of anime... and I don't seem to care much. 

Which is not to say I don't have some things planned.  Obviously there's the upcoming Hungarian Grand Prix.  There's also a post about High School of the Dead in the works, if I can get the time to do it.  Might be a WWII thing perking around in my brain, too.  Any requests would be appreciated as well.

One good thing about all of this, though... thanks to BBC America, I've seen the entirety of the new Doctor Who TV series, in order, up to the midpoint of Season 3 ("Evolution of the Daleks.").  For the record?  Not a big fan of Christopher Eccleston's Doctor.  Too angry for my tastes.  DO like David Tennant, though.  Rose was a really good Companion, but oh my stars and garters is Martha Jones stunning!  Wow.

I said that out loud, didn't I?

Right.  Rambling.  I'll try to blog more, if I get the chance.  Here's an unrelated picture.

-Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya

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July 25, 2011

F1 on SPEED!: Hungary 2011

Ah, Hungary.  Beautiful, glorious Hungary.  My favorite circuit in Formula 1.  Let's take a look at the track map:

It's glorious, isn't it?  It's been described as "Monaco without the glamour."  But that's a good thing!  Without the glitz and glamour, all that's left is to concentrate on the racing.  Set into a natural bowl, most spectators can see the majority of the track from their seats.  It has little altitude change, but is bumpy due to being built on relatively sandy soil.  The twisty layout makes passing difficult, emphasizing driver skill over speed.

Like Monaco, the Hungaroring is a high-downforce low-speed track, where maneuverability outweighs grunt.  Since the Grand Prix is pretty much the only race run on the Hungaroring, the track is usually dusty and "green" at the start of the weekend, but traction improves while the various sessions are run and the circuit rubbers in.  Rain can wash that rubber off of course, but there's only been one wet race in the 25 year history of the Hungarian Grand Prix, in 2006.  That race was Jenson Button's first win, in fact.

As the race is run in late July, it's always hot and humid here.  The natural bowl keeps a lot of the daytime heat, meaning there's little relief.  This makes keeping the cars cool an exciting challenge for the mechanics, and you'll often see various pieces of bodywork removed around the engine area to promote airflow.

Ah, Hungary.  To be in Budapest in the summertime, watching the Grand Prix... is there anything better?  Fortunately for those of us who can't experience the wonderment, the Legendary Announce Team will be bringing us everything with their usual talent and aplomb... and even better, it'll all be back on SPEED!  Let's take a look at the schedule:

Friday:  3am - 430am  Practice 1 (streaming),  7am - 840am Practice 2 (live)
Saturday: 4am - 5am Practice 3 (streaming), 7am - 830am Quals (live)
Sunday: 630am - 9am Grand Prix of Hungary (live)

So whip up some bundáskenyér with körözött, settle in on the couch, pop open a Soproni, and hope for a Zsolt Baumgartner sighting!  We'll see you then!


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July 24, 2011

F1 Update!: Germany 2011

Grey, leaden skies hovered over the Nurb Jr today.  Every member of every team kept one eye cocked to the heavens looking for the first hint of rain, and wet weather tires were never far from reach.  Would they be needed?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2011 Grand Prix of Germany.

*NOPE:  While the clouds overhead kept everybody on their toes all day by squirting tiny amounts of moisture at the racing tarmac, it never progressed to the point where the galoshes had to come out.  The hob this played with team strategies was tremendous (as we'll see later).  Everybody knew it was coming, everybody was planning for it, and nobody ever got it.

*THE BAD OLD DAYS... NOT SO BAD ONCE IN A WHILE:  Judging the 2011 German Grand Prix is somewhat difficult.  Those expecting a pass-fest full of excitement and NASCAR-like swapping of places didn't get it, and thus will decry the race at boring.  They might even be correct.  What we got today was an old-fashioned race of dueling pit strategies, seeing who could make their soft tires last the longest while trying to stay off the hard compound tires Pirelli brought to the track.  The hards had two problems this weekend.  While they could last forever on the non-abrasive surface at Nurb Jr (Pirelli estimated that they'd be able to go 100 laps), they had no grip whatsoever.  The second problem was that the grip was made even worse by the chilly temperatures.  It was 54 degrees at race time, and the track surface wasn't much warmer.  Getting heat into the tires proved to be awfully difficult today.

*THE START'S THE KEY:  In most respects, the race today was decided when the lights went out.  Polesitter Mark Webber had another of his patented Lousy Starts©, losing the lead to Lewis Hamilton before the first turn.  He would never legitimately hold the lead again.  When Seb Vettel spun on Lap 10, he fell from third to fourth place, but 12 full seconds back and would never be a threat.  It became a race between Hamilton and Ferrari's HWMNBN, with Webber grimly hanging on, ready to take advantage of any mistake... and maybe drive somebody into one.

*MIDRACE:  It became clear that some drivers were banking on rain.  Adrian Sutil didn't make his first stop until Lap 24, Jenson Button until Lap 25.  Both were as high as fourth place, and both looked to be ready to score some serious points, but Button blew a hydraulic line and had to retire on Lap 36.  Up front, Hamilton, HWMNBN and Webber were basically racing in the pit lanes: whichever's mechanics could get them in and out the fastest would win.

*ENDGAME:  In the end, nothing could deny Lewis Hamilton his second win of the season.  HWMNBN finished less than four seconds behind in second, with Webber almost six seconds adrift of the Ferrari.  Behind them however, Ferrari's Felipe Massa and Red Bull's Seb Vettel were in quite a little duel... and an eye-opening one it was.  Vettel was obviously faster than the Ferrari, yet he could do nothing with the Brazilian.  The media has been saying for quite some time that Seb Vettel is a great driver from the lead, but put him back in the pack and he's merely average, with an amazing penchant for some awfully clumsy driving (see Turkey 2010).  As it turned out, Massa led Vettel until the final lap, when the two had to pit and put on hard tires to satisfy the sporting regulations.  They came in nose-to-tail, about a half-second separating them.  They left the pits with Vettel holding a nearly two second lead over Massa, courtesy of a miserable 5.5-second tire change from Ferrari.  They finished over a half-minute behind the winner.  Force India's Adrian Sutil, stretching his tires to the limit, brought it home in sixth, almost 90 seconds back.  Nobody else was on the same lap.

*AFTERWARD:  Shortly after crossing the finish line, the Ferrari of HWMNBN ran out of fuel and coasted to a stop somewhere on the course.  Mark Webber, right behind him, decided to stop and give him a lift back to the pit lane.

We here in the US never saw it.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE: Lewis Hamilton.  At the start of the race weekend, Hamilton was quite vocal about his chances: slim-to-none.  The car just didn't have the pace.  After Quals, he was saying that it was the the best lap he'd ever turned, and that there wasn't anything else in the car... and all he could manage was second place.  Hamilton won the race, set fast lap, and led more laps than anybody today.  Either he did a fantastic job or his car is better than he thinks.  Or both.

*TEAM OF THE RACE: McLaren.  When they had to perform, they did.  They consistently made the right strategy calls at the right time, their mechanics were flawless, and the drivers made their plans work.  That Jenson Button lost hydraulic line knocked him out of the race is the only black mark on a sterling day.  Ferrari's mechanics lost Massa a position on the last lap, Red Bull kept Mark Webber out a lap or two too long on his final stop, costing him any chance at second.  Only McLaren kept it together.

*MOVE OF THE RACE: On Lap 32, Lewis Hamilton pitted from the lead and came out in 2nd place behind HWMNBN.  The gap between the two was very close to the pit lane "delta time," or how long it would take to drive into the pit lane, change tires, then drive off the pit lane.  The next lap, the Ferrari driver pulled in for new tires.  He got out ahead of the charging McLaren, but the Glare on Wheels had the momentum.

The Ferrari had problems getting the power down; the one drawback of brand new tires is that, until they get heat in them, they aren't particularly sticky.  No grip = no power.

Heading into Turn 2, Hamilton put his foot down and began to charge around the outside of the turn... not the easiest way to make a living, particularly when you've got a squirrely Ferrari a foot or so to your left.

Outpowering the red car through the outside of the turn, Hamilton showed all sorts of guts and racing skill.  His reward?  First place, and the MOTR.

*MOOOOOOO-OOOOVE OF THE RACE:  On Lap 11, Renault's Grizzly Nick Heidfeld was harassing Toro Rosso's Seb Buemi back in the order.  It was clear that Heidfeld was faster and was surely the better driver.  All Buemi had in his favor was a lead and an aggressive desire to keep the Renault behind him.  When Grizzly Nick made his move to the outside going into a chicane, Buemi threw a block that would have made Merlin Olson proud.  However, blocking in F1 shouldn't be a contact sport, and Buemi turned it into one.  The result was not pretty.

Buemi ended up with a punctured rear tire and a five gridspot penalty for next week's race in Hungary.  Grizzly Nick ended up in the kittylitter with a broken car.  If anything good came of this clumsy Mooooo-ooove, it was that we got to see this camera shot:


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July 23, 2011

Saturday Night Tunage VII

Once more, my friends, once more... it is I, DJ Wonderduck, and once more it is time for Saturday Night Tunage!  Tonight, I'm just throwing stuff to the metaphorical wall.  Maybe you'll like it, maybe you won't.  Either way, hopefully you'll find it interesting.  Or not.  Up to you.  Onto the music...

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F1 Quals: Germany 2011

Another gray day at the Nurb Jr. for the 2011 Grand Prix of Germany's Qualifying session.  No rain, but constant clouds and a strong breeze combined for a surprisingly cool day as well (53 degrees), making it difficult for the drivers to get heat into their tires.  But would that make a difference today?  Or would the threat of rain on race day play a part today?  Let's take a look at the provisional grid:

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 1:33.096 1:31.311 1:30.079
2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:32.934 1:30.998 1:30.134
3 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 1:32.973 1:31.017 1:30.216
4 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:32.916 1:31.150 1:30.442
5 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:31.826 1:31.582 1:30.910
6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:32.785 1:31.343 1:31.263
7 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:33.224 1:31.532 1:31.288
8 Adrian F'n Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:32.286 1:31.809 1:32.010
9 The Red Menace
Renault 1:33.187 1:31.985 1:32.187
10 Slappy Schumacher Mercedes 1:32.603 1:32.180 1:32.482
11 Grizzly Nick Heidfeld Renault 1:32.505 1:32.215
12 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:32.651 1:32.560
13 Predicant Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1:33.003 1:32.635
14 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:33.664 1:33.043
15 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1:33.295 1:33.176

Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 1:33.635 1:33.698
17 NKOTT STR-Ferrari 1:33.658 1:33.698
18 Gandalf Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:33.786

19 Heikki Kovalaineninnie Lotus-Renault 1:35.599

20 Tim O'Glockenspiel Virgin-Cosworth 1:36.400

21 Cowboy Karun Chandhok Lotus-Renault 1:36.422

22 Custard d'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1:36.641

23 Vitantonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 1:37.011

24 Daniel Ricciardo HRT-Cosworth 1:37.036

Q1 107% Time

For the first time in 14 races, Red Bull's Seb Vettel will not be starting a race from the front row.  If you think about it, that's a pretty darn amazing stat.  And gosh, he must be miserable with ending up a pitiful third.

Two years ago, Vettel's teammate Mark Webber started this race from pole... and got his first ever F1 win.  Today, he said that his time was the best he could have possibly done, that there wasn't another hundredth left in the car.  McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, on the other hand, was pleasantly surprised with the speed of his steed.  After Friday's practice sessions, he was moaning that there was no chance to fight for pole, the car was too slow, yadda yadda yadda.  Instead, he's less than a tenth of a second behind.  Not too shabby for a "crappy" chassis.

Meanwhile, Hamilton's teammate is complaining.  "Something isn't right," said Jenson Button.  "The pace isn't there.  It was there this morning, so I don't know where it has gone."  I have a suspicion as to where it is... I suspect that McLaren is hedging their bets for Sunday.  Y'see, there's a halfway decent chance of rain sometime during the Grand Prix and I'd almost put money on Button having a wet-weather setup.  If so and the team's gamble pays off, look for him to be on the podium, if not the top step.  If not?  Let's not think of that.  I'm thinking that perhaps Red Bull has Vettel set up the same way, with the difference in position coming down to relative car quality.

You may have noticed that next to Seb Buemi's name, the number "16" is missing.  That's not a typo.  After Quals were completed, the Toro Rosso driver's car failed the mandatory fuel test.  It violated regulation 19.8.3, meaning that the chemical makeup of the sample taken after Quals did not match the reference sample taken before the weekend.  As a result, Buemi has been excluded from Qualifying.  Since he officially didn't set a time, he could have been prevented from racing, but instead he'll be starting dead last.  In their defense, the team says that they had to replace Buemi's fuel pump system (which is why he didn't appear in P2), and that the new system must have had some residual chemicals (lubricants, perhaps) in it that contaminated the fuel inadvertently.  Oddly enough, I'm inclined to believe them, particularly since NKOTT's fuel passed muster.

Race at 11am Pond Central time... see you here for F1U! sometime afterwards!

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July 22, 2011

F1 Practice: Germany 2011

A gray day in the Eifel Mountains, which isn't unusual.  Friday's practice sessions went the way they usually do... cars went out on track, ran laps, came back in, rinse, repeat.  Nothing particularly exciting, which also isn't unusual.  Except for Seb Buemi's wild ride in P1... that was exciting.

The Toro Rosso got sideways and went airborne twice... first when he hit the curbs, then again when the car landed, slid across some grass and an access road, then bounced in the kittylitter.  It could have been a big wreck, but wasn't.  Buemi got right out, though I'll bet his back'll be sore in the morning; F1 drivers sit directly on the floor of the chassis, and they don't exactly have much in the way of shock absorbers either.

In other news for the race weekend, Jarno Trulli has been quite vocal of late, criticizing his car's power steering up hill and down vale.  For at least four or five races, he's been complaining about how it just isn't working right... which is not-so-veiled criticism of his team, as well.  There's almost certainly been discussions behind closed doors between Lotus and Trulli, asking him to keep the complaints behind closed doors.  For example, if there's been a problem on Heikki Kovaleinninninnie's chassis, we haven't heard about it.  Yet Trulli has continued to moan and whine in public.  Well, Lotus has reacted.  Jarno is getting the weekend off, no reason given.  In his place, F1U! is happy to announce that Cowboy Karun Chandok is back in the saddle!  It's been over a year since he's been in a F1 race, but we have no doubt that he'll repeat his excellent performances on Sunday.

Meanwhile, more and more regulations for 2014 have been released.  As we've already heard, the inline four-cylinder turbo engine is dead, replaced with a new V6 that'll be limited to 15000rpm.  What's very new is that the engines will have to have an onboard starter!  That's right, F1 cars will now have to do the same thing that road cars have been able to do for decades.  Another interesting rule is that, when a car is in the pit lane, it will be allowed to run on electric power only.  I assume that's between the speed limiter lines, but it may mean anywhere related to the pit lane... such as pit-in.  We'll see.  I'm neither excited nor offended by this; it's just the FIA being the FIA.  As usual.

Speaking of the FIA, the marshals have done it again.

Good to know that they've solved all the other problems in F1.

Quals in the morning.  See ya then.

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July 21, 2011

I Knew This Was Coming...

...but it doesn't make it any easier.

That's just darn annoying, is what that is.

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July 19, 2011

F1 on TV!: Germany 2011

Once upon a time, there was a track called "The Green Hell."  12.9 miles long, with 154 turns, it was the ne plus ultra of the racing world.  The toughest, most demanding purpose-built track in the world, and quite possibly the most dangerous as well.  If you could win a race here, you had done something truly special.  It was more correctly known as The Nurburgring, and despite the similar name it is not where the 2011 Grand Prix of Germany is being held.  Let's take a look at the Nurburgring track map where we'll be racing this weekend:

Correctly known as the Nurburgring GP-Strecke, I prefer to call it "Nurb Jr.", though a local nickname, "Ersatzring", is pleasing as well.  It's shorter, less challenging (though trying to thread a needle while driving a F1 car would also be less challenging), and infinitely safer.  It's a high-downforce circuit, with a generic level of tire wear.  It also alternates with Hockenheim on the F1 calendar, so the last time we were here, BrawnGP and Jenson Button were winning everything in sight.  Of course, that means that such things as the quick-wearing Pirelli tires, DRS-enabled rear wings, blown diffusers and constant-flow throttle, and the crazy-go-nuts Red Bull chassis haven't been here, so it'll all be new and fresh. 

"But wait just a minute Wonderduck," I hear you saying.  "You've wasted hundreds of words over the past few races trying to describe what effect the removal of the constant-flow throttle and blown diffuser would have.  It's gone, the FIA took it off the cars!"  Smugly, you sit back, sure that you've caught the head of F1U! in a mistake.

Yes, well, the FIA apparently had their fingers crossed when they said all that about things being taken off the cars.  Effective immediately, teams can go back to "Valencia"-spec setups... including the blown diffusers.  T'anks, FIA!  In 2012, though, all that stuff'll be gone again. 

But we've still got this race weekend to get through, and as usual, the Legendary Announce Team will be there to call all the action.  As I'm saying the same thing every race, I'm just going to list the times now.
Friday - Practice 1: 3a-430a (streaming), Practice 2: 7a - 840a (live on SPEED)
Saturday - Practice 3: 4a - 5a (streaming), Quals: 7a - 830a (live, SPEED)
Sunday - GP of Germany: 11a - 1p (tape delay, FOX)

This is the last race of the year on FOX... hurray!  We'll see you then!

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July 18, 2011

Braindead Duck

If you've come to The Pond looking for the usual "F1 on TV!" entry the Monday before a race, I'm afraid that there was an... um... obstacle that will be preventing me from doing it tonight.  To whit:

If you've ever said to yourself, "Y'know, I wonder what 3480 pounds of used textbooks look like when they're still in boxes," well, here ya go, binkie!  82 boxes arrived at the building's loading dock and had to be wheeled into the Duck U Bookstore... at a time where the temperature outside was pushing 90, as was the humidity percentage.

Between doing that and then opening up, checking in, and putting on the shelves 56 of the 82 boxes, yours truly is well and truly toast.  Or, as I put it so succinctly in the title of this post, "braindead."

F1 on TV will come along on Tuesday.  Wonderduck's Pond apologizes for any inconvenience this may cause.

Firefoxy's spelchekr suggested "incontinence."  Wonderduck's Pond also apologizes for any of that that this delay may cause as well.

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July 17, 2011

A Gift

As you might remember, I mentioned a few days ago that the manager of the Duck U Bookstore was promoted.  Her final day with the Bookstore was last Tuesday, and for the most part it was just another day... more or less.  As she was getting ready to leave for the last time, she walked up to me holding a box.  Inside?

It's a music box that plays "Rubber Duckie."  There's also a... I dunno, a fan or something like that, that blows glass or plastic spheres around the fluid-filled globe, so it looks like it's filled with soap bubbles.  It's engraved with the message "To One Quackin' Good ASM."

Awfully cool, and it taught me a lot about how to photograph shiny objects too!

Thanks, (no longer) Boss!

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July 16, 2011

Saturday Night Tunage VI

It's  another Saturday Night Tunage to liven up your weekend!  I'm your party host, DJ Wonderduck, and tonight's Tunage is a special one!  I mean, they're all special, but this one is even more special than usual, for this one... is all Eighties music, all the time!  It's should come as no shock to any of my readers listeners whatever you folks are that I'm a '80s fan... it's the music of my callow yoot, after all.  But there's more to it than that.  For I believe that the '80s were the last bastion of a time where music didn't have to actually mean anything.  It was just there for fun!  No messages, no statements, just a rolickin' good time.  Sure, there were songs that had an underlying motive to them (U2 and The Clash, for example, were rather heavy-handed about that), but the majority of it all?  Go out and have a good time!

So let's get on with it already!


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July 14, 2011

Night Clouds

...or "Wonderduck gets all artsy with his camera."

That's the moon glowing behind the treetops.  Fun textures amongst the clouds.  Sometimes, this inexpensive digital camera of mine surprises me with what it can do.

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Random Anime Picture #63: Toasty

Things are a little hectic at the Duck U Bookstore these days.  We're a month away from the start of the new school year, there's very nearly three tons of books being delivered to the store over the next few days, we're starting to see the first ducklings coming in to buy said books... and there is no store manager.  She got promoted to a bigger store that was 10 minutes from home (instead of the hour-long drive each way she did to work at the Duck U Bookstore), and her last day was this past Tuesday.  That leaves yours truly in charge...

...of a trained part-timer who has limited availability and two brand-new temps who are still learning how to use the cash register.  Eep.  A new manager is expected to be selected by the first week of August, but even in the best of cases it's going to be somewhat hectic around here for a while.  It's only been two days, but I'm already roughly a day and a half behind on the manager stuff... or at least, that's the way I feel.  Oh, and there's a registration day for incoming students on Saturday, it's going to be 95 degrees outside for the next week, and every single road and most of the parking lots at Duck U have been scraped to the foundations in preparation for resurfacing next week.  And my knee is making unpleasant sounds and hurts something fierce.

-Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko, Ep02

I'd like to hide in a futon too.

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July 13, 2011

Top Gear S17E03

I greatly enjoy watching Top Gear.  Clarkson, May and Hamster Hammond play off each other incredibly well, leading to great hilarity, at times reaching Monty Python levels of humor quality.  Then of course, there's the cars, and the envy... after all, they've got the greatest job in the world, and they know it, and they don't take it for granted.

Which makes the "highlight" of this past Sunday's episode so excruciating to talk about.  You see, this week they put a F1 Star in the (old) Reasonably Priced Car.  In the past, they've had Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, amongst others, hop into the Suzuki Liana and turn a few laps on the Top Gear Test Track.  The last F1 driver to appear was Rubens Barrichello, and we all remember what happened that time... and the t-shirts he had made up.  But this time, there was a different feeling in the studio... a feeling of dark menace.

Which turned out to be entirely appropriate, for when he was younger he cavorted and gamboled with Slappy Schumacher itself.

He is now a couple of years older, and instead of a kart, he now drives this:

...and I began to weep.  Can I never escape from the menace of...

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July 12, 2011

Yet Another FARK Greenlight!

It doesn't happen often, but once in a while the planets align and someone smiles upon my humble submission... and lo, the greenlight does shine!

The relevant article is located here.

GirlDeMo not included.
That's my sixth greenlight... I'm a happy duckie.

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