July 10, 2011

F1 Update!: Britain 2011

Rules changes that may have been aimed directly at the Red Bull team didn't seem to slow them down at all in Quals.  But what would actually occur when the lights went out at Silverstone?  Would Ferrari kick Vettel to the curb?  Would McLaren make a remarkable comeback from a depressing qualifying stint?  Or would the rain come bucketing down like it did during practice, throwing everything into a tizzy?  THIS is your F1U! for the 2011 Grand Prix of Great Britain!

*LIGHTS OUT:  While it wasn't raining when the race began, just a few minutes before the back half of the track had been in the middle of a downpour.  Up at the start/finish line however the track was pretty much dry.  The entire field was on Intermediate tires, and with the way the weather had been at Silverstone for the past two days, nobody was sure if they'd have to change to full wets, move to slicks, or stay on the Inters, perhaps as soon as the end of Lap 1.  The weather was just that weird.  When the lights went out, polesitter Mark Webber made one of his patented Lousy Starts©, allowing his teammate, Seb Vettel, to rocket by him in a repeat of a scene we've seen all too many times this season.  Meanwhile, Ferrari's HWMNBN began living right behind the Australian driver, not quite able to get by but not letting his opponent get away.  Behind them, everything is thrown into a cocked hat.  McLaren's Lewis Hamilton picks up three places at the start, and by the end of the second lap is up to fifth, passing his teammate. 

*AND SO ON...: By Lap 10, it's clear that the track is just about ready for the normal slick tires... on the racing line at least.  Slappy Schumacher, fresh after discovering that wet pavement is slippery and misplacing his front wing somewhere in the side of Gandalf Kobayashi's Sauber, becomes the first to try the regular tires, followed by half the field on the next lap.  A few laps later, both Lotuses are out with problems with their Renault engines.  As these may very well be the first engine failures of the entire season, there is immediate thought that the new rules against the "throttle trick" are causing overheating.  On Lap 25, Gandalf pulls over, his engine cooked to a lovely shade of golden brown. 

*PIT MISFORTUNES:  Two weeks ago in Spain, all 24 cars that started the race finished, only the third time in the 61 year history of F1 that has ever occurred (the last time was in 2005).  A lot of that can be put down to the sterling work by the pit crews.  Not this race.  Kobayashi was handed a 10 second stop-and-go penalty for being released unsafely into the pit lane, taking with him a Force India airhose in the process.  In an unrelated incident, Force India's Paul diResta on lap 26 stopped for new tires... and discovered that the team had teammate Adrian Sutil's ready for him.  The screwed up pitstop cost him nine places, dropping from seventh to 16th.  We'll talk about what happened to Jenson Button later.  But then came the big mistake.  On Lap 27, Vettel pits from the lead with 2nd place HWMNBN a few seconds behind him.  Ferrari got their man in and out in a hurry, but the Red Bull mechanics had problems with an airgun.  HWMNBN, who was some seconds behind the young German champion at the beginning of the pitstop, sweeps by before the Red Bull driver has all four tires on and takes over the lead.

*CONTINUING DEVELOPMENTS:  At this point, the order is HWMNBN, Lewis Hamilton and Seb Vettel.  It still stands that was on Lap 32, but the Ferrari driver is a full seven seconds ahead of second place Hamilton, who has Vettel all over his rear wing.  Astonishingly, the Red Bull can't get past the obviously slower McLaren, allowing the Ferrari driver to open an 11 second lead in the space of a few laps.  Obviously frustrated, the Austrian team called their driver in for a pit stop on Lap 37, hoping that fresh tires and no McLaren in front of them will make a difference.  In response, Vettel turns in the lap of the day and when Hamilton came in for tires on the next lap, his mechanics take 0.2 seconds longer than Vettel's; this, combined with the lightning-fast out lap, allows the reigning World Champion to jump Hamilton on the pit exchange.  On Lap 40, HWMNBN pits from the lead for the final time, and when he rejoined the race still in the lead, it became clear that the churchbells would be busy in Maranello. 

*AND THEN...:  All a race driver wants to do is go fast.  That's what he does, after all... what else IS there to racing, when it comes right down to it?  So imagine what was going through Lewis Hamilton's head on Lap 44.  He's in third, having passed Ferrari's Felipe Massa to get there, but he has Mark Webber coming up behind him fast, and Seb Vettel is merely a couple of seconds ahead.  Of course he's going to want to run like the wind, right?  Then came the call from the pit wall: "Lewis, we need to conserve fuel if we're going to finish the race."  It appears that McLaren, gambling on a slower, less fuel-intensive wet race, didn't put enough gas into his car for the surprisingly quick-paced (mostly) dry race they got.  Two laps later, Webber cruised by the drastically slower Hamilton, kicking the 2008 Champion off the podium.  By Lap 49, another threat emerges: Felipe Massa's Ferrari has gained over seven seconds in three laps and appears to be drooling at the opportunity in front of him. 

*THIS IS THE END:  Much to everybody's surprise and delight, Hamilton might not have been the only one with fuel problems.  Mark Webber was making up time in huge gulps on Seb Vettel, maybe for the same reason the McLaren had slowed, or perhaps because the German's tires had gone off.  Whichever reason it was, on Laps 50 and 51, the two teammates begin to go at it hammer and tongs.  Only a slightly dangerous blocking maneuver kept the Aussie behind Vettel.  Back at the Red Bull pit wall, team principal Christian Horner has a heart attack and dies.  Recovering quickly, he immediately says enough of that.  The forceful radio call goes out on the final lap: "Mark, maintain the gap."  It turned out that Webber had been ignoring similar calls for a few laps to have a go at his teammate, but that final, failed, attempt brought the team's foot down... and with the rules against team orders being removed this season, nothing will happen to the team.  Of course, this is the team that last year got quite holier-than-thou when Ferrari told Felipe Massa that "(HWMNBN) is faster than you."  "We would never issue team orders under any circumstances," I believe was the gist of Horner's quote back then.  Yeah, about that...

*FIN: Whatever little dramas were going on behind him bothered HWMNBN not a whit, as he sailed across the finish line some 16.5 seconds ahead of the two Red Bull drivers for his first win since the 2010 GP of Korea.  His teammate however, he was locked in a tooth-and-nail fight for fourth with Hamilton.  The McLaren pilot was doing an incredible job of keeping the ridiculously faster Ferrari behind him until the last sequence of turns.  Then the Brazilian made his move to the outside of the Brit.  The two bumped twice and Massa was forced into the run-off area outside of the final turn.  A balls-out sprint ensued, with Hamilton crossing the line 0.024 seconds ahead of Massa for fourth place, bringing to an end a surprisingly eventful race.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  HWMNBN.  From hounding Webber at the start to keeping his head as people nicked places off him in the pits, the Spaniard stayed as cool as the other side of the pillow all race, and it paid off in spades with a dominating victory... but one that never really seemed all that dominate.  Do it again and we here at F1U! will begin to believe it, though.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  Ferrari.  From a miserable start to the season to nearly getting a 1-4 result, the red team from Maranello have got to be feeling pretty good right now.  Whether their sudden speed is a result of the new rules changes or from improvements in the car is a topic for another day.

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  On Lap 14, Jenson Button was hovering just behind Felipe Massa in 6th place as the two raced down the Hangar Straight.  Conditions were... um... dicey, to say the least, but that's the sort of track that Button enjoys racing on.  Into the 150mph Stowe corner they went, with Button making his move to the outside of the Ferrari.

Massa, despite a slight speed disadvantage, took some umbrage with this attempt and kept pushing the 2009 Champion farther and farther outside, until finally Button wasn't driving on the track at all, but on the painted section just off the circuit.

Somehow, Button managed to keep the car gripping the surface (unlike Gandalf Kobayashi in Friday's P1) as they raced down to Vale.  When Massa slid out to the racing line for the turn, Button pounced.

Barbecuing his front-left tire with his late braking, Button zipped past as the two entered Vale, and while Massa attempted a counterattack in Club, the McLaren had too much speed built up and ran away, bringing a truly professional pass to a close.  Well done, here's the MotR!

*MOOOOOOO-OOOVE OF THE RACE:  It seems appropriate that, given all the pitlane problems the teams had today, that the worst move of the race will be going to a pit crew member.  On Lap 40, Jenson Button was coming in for his final set of tires.  He was in fifth place, and had an outside shot at a podium position if everything went right.  Instead, everything went very very wrong.  The front-right air gun seemed to have a problem going from "loosen" to "tighten" as the old tire came off promptly, and the new tire put in place.  As the other three tires were bolted down however, the front-right gunner tried to lock the tire on the hub, and couldn't.  Immediately, he dropped the gun and began reaching for the backup.  The chief mechanic, also known as the "Lollypop Man" for the paddle-shaped "stop/go" board he wields, took the frantic scramble for a new gun to mean that the tire was safely attached, even though the usual notification for that is a neon-glove-covered hand held vertically above the tire.  The lollypop was lifted, and away went Button, exactly as he's supposed to do.  Before he got out of the pits, though...

Amazingly the tire never came completely off the hub, though only by the barest of margins.  He still had to park the car however, and the team was fined after the race for an unsafe release, to the tune of €5000.  From 5th to out, and a decent chunk of change to boot?  Yep, that's a Moooooo-ooove to the Lollypop Man!

*SELECTED DRIVER'S QUOTES OF THE RACE:
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July 09, 2011

Saturday Night Tunage V


Once more, this time with feeling, it's Saturday Night Tunage with your host, DJ Wonderduck.  I wasn't sure I was going to do the Tunage this week, but whilst at work on Friday the instore music system managed to blow my mind... forcing me to inflict the pain share the joy with you!  I'm sure you'll appreciate the "stacks and stacks of red hot wax" I'll be layin' down for your enjoyment, so lets get started!

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F1 Quals: Britain 2011

Rain clouds above Silverstone for the Qualifying session for the 2011 Grand Prix of Great Britain are a normal sight, but the storm clouds in the pit lane gave hope that perhaps, just maybe, the Red Bull dominance may have been broken by the blown diffuser ban.  So, was it?  Here's the provisional grid:

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 1:32.670 1:31.673 1:30.399
2 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 1:32.977 1:32.379 1:30.431
3 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:32.986 1:31.727 1:30.516
4 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:32.760 1:31.640 1:31.124
5 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:34.230 1:32.273 1:31.898
6 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:34.472 1:32.569 1:31.929
7 Elder Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1:32.702 1:32.588 1:31.933
8 Gandalf Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:34.324 1:32.399 1:32.128
9 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:34.186 1:32.295 1:32.209
10 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:33.581 1:32.505 1:32.376
11 Adrian F'n Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:34.454 1:32.617
12 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1:34.145 1:32.624
13 Slappy Schumacher Mercedes 1:34.160 1:32.656
14 The Red Menace
Renault 1:34.428 1:32.734
15 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:33.532 1:33.119
16 Grizzly Nick Heidfeld Renault 1:35.132 1:33.805
17 Heikki Kovalaineninnie Lotus-Renault 1:34.923 1:34.821
18 NKOTT STR-Ferrari 1:35.245

19 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 1:35.749

20 Tim O'Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1:36.203

21 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1:36.456

22 Custard d'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1:37.154

23 Vitantonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 1:37.484

24 Daniel Ricciardo HRT-Cosworth 1:38.059


Q1 107% Time
1:39.156


Nope.  Time to face facts: nothing is going to stop Red Bull, short of land mines and anti-tank weaponry.  Even the lousy weather helped Red Bull today, as it began drizzling in Q3, just as people were beginning their last-ditch attempts to knock Webber and Vettel off the front row.  When you're taking some of the turns at Silverstone at 160mph, suddenly having a puddle in front of you tends to (excuse the pun) dampen the spirits of the drivers.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm hoping that the Ferraris can do something on Sunday to gore the Bulls... maybe Massa will be ordered to go to ramming speed heading into Turn 1.  Because that's about the only way we're going to hear something other than the Austrian anthem being played on the podium for the winning constructor.

Well, that or rain.  One of the two.  Fortunately, we've got a chance of the wet stuff for Sunday.  See you then!

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July 08, 2011

F1 Practice: Britain 2011

Ah, to be in England in the summertime... just don't forget your umbrellas, raincoat and galoshes.  Other than a fifteen minute long stretch in P2 right at the end, what we had was the textbook definition of a wet track at Silverstone.  Very wet.  Nearly "boat racing" levels of wet.

While watching the most highly skilled drivers in the world look like they've never even heard of a car, let alone actually drive one, was mildly entertaining, it did nothing to answer the burning question of the day.  That being, of course, what effect will the Open Throttle ban have on the myriad racers and particularly the nigh-on unbeatable Red Bulls?  Since the heavy rain made even the relatively simple task of keeping the cars on track nearly impossible, nobody knows what's going to happen once they have a dry track under them.

There's been a clarification of the ruling from the FIA.  It turns out that the ban isn't actually a total ban.  Instead, the teams can keep the throttle open about 10% instead of at full force.  Legendary Announce Team tech guru Steve Matchett did a great job explaining how this trick works.  In essence, when the driver takes his foot off the "make noise" pedal, thereby closing the throttle, the engine changes modes.  Instead of burning fuel in the classic "suck-squeeze-bang-blow" routine of the internal combustion engine, when the throttle is closed the engine becomes a highly efficient pump, accelerating nothing but air through the exhaust pipes and over the diffuser, thereby keeping the downforce at a constant.  Just how the teams accomplish this neat trick is an exercise for the tech nobbins out there.  That also explains just why the FIA declared the trick a violation of the "movable aerodynamic device" rule.  The pistons are moving, after all! 

Now that the FIA has taken 90% of the benefit away, the teams are screaming that they should be allowed to have 20% of the trick.  Or 25%.  Or whatever number that's greater than 10% that they feel like throwing out there.  It's all somewhat farcical, except the teams actually have something of a point here.  As I mentioned before Valencia, the cars that use the Constant Throttle trick were designed with it, meaning that it's required to keep the cars stable and safe.  At least, that's how their argument goes.  The fact that they can make this change without rebuilding the entire rear end of their cars makes me think that perhaps it isn't as critical as the teams would like us to think.

Or maybe it is.  In P1, Gandalf Kobayashi got his Sauber a little squirrely on some of the astroturf edging the front straight.  He got sideways, hit a bump, and once again we discovered that, under the right conditions, F1 cars really can fly.  Short distances, and not well, but they can.  Alas, when he returned to earth, the right-side wheels dug in, and this resulted:

To me, there's no worse accident than one where a F1 car gets upside down, unless it's one where the car is tumbling, and that's very nearly what we got here.  Would the increase in blown diffuser downforce had made a difference here?  No, as Gandalf had his foot down as hard as he could given the conditions, given that he was accelerating off the final turn.  Just mere luck kept him from the grim tumble.

Quals in the morning, maybe it'll be dry then!

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Six Years Of The Pond

July 8th, 2005, was a rather nondescript day.  Nothing of any real importance occurred in the world that day, truth be told.  It was just a day like any other.  But in a corner of a small but growing blog domain-cum-empire run by an evil magical girl in Australia, a duck with a penchant for writing about Formula 1 and anime quietly moved his site from the cesspool that was Blogger to MuNuVia. 

It was six years ago today that Wonderduck's Pond was born.

The Pond has come a long way since those humble beginnings, and if it wasn't for the marvelous people I have as readers, it never would have blossomed the way it did.  You folks have been here for the good times and the bad, and it is much appreciated.

Never would have thought six years ago that I'd still be doing this stuff, but that's how it works sometimes.  Now, let us all put on the silly party caps and have some cake!

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July 06, 2011

Top Gear S17E02

So there's this little British motoring show you might have heard of called Top Gear.  On the show, the three presenters, Jeremy Clarkson (the big one), Richard Hammond (the small one) and James May (the slow one), are allowed to get their mitts on some of the world's most exciting cars and do things with them that would make most people soil themselves with fear or excitement.  Or both.  It's been around for 17 seasons, and amongst other things they've attempted to launch a Reliant Robin into space (and failed), driven a rocket-powered Mini down a ski jump, tried to destroy a Toyota Hilux (and failed), driven to the North Pole (the first to do so in history), taken a Bugatti Veyron Super Sport to 258mph, discovered that a Ford Fiesta make a good Higgins Boat, and created a blender powered by a V8 (it can blend bricks!).

All of which sounds like something of a good time.  But in their most recent episode, which aired this past Sunday July 3rd, the lads got to do something any racing fan would give up body parts for.  Y'see, for this episode they were testing "hot hatchbacks" in their usual fashion: each chooses a car, then they do some ridiculous challenge or two, this time in a small Italian town. 

This, they accomplished with their usual level of humor.  Then to test how their cars drove in real-life situations, they were told to motor from this little Italian town to a small French fishing village.  Which you may have heard of.

As they were in the hills above Monaco, an eerie, almost spectral moan could be heard emanating from the town below.  Clarkson got on his radio to the other two with "Lads... I think the race is on!"  Hammond: "What race?"  Cue Clarkson wanting to strangle his two co-workers.

Their next challenge was fairly simple: turn three racing laps on the Monaco Grand Prix circuit (on Friday, the "quiet day" of the Grand Prix weekend).  Clarkson, a long-time F1 fan, immediately tracked down David Coulthard's Chin, Mark Webber and Rubens Barrichello for advice on how to best drive  around the circuit. 

Hammond and May, neither of whom are F1 fans in the least (despite Hammond having driven a F1 car and calling the experience "mind-blowing"), spent the day and most of the night at a party located here:

...and not finding out anything at all about the circuit.  They did speak to a very nice driver named Tim O'Glock, though.

Finally, their moment on-track came.

I hate them so very much, as do pretty much all right-thinking motorheads.  After all, they had the entire Monaco circuit to themselves for 10 minutes or so.  Bastards.

Seriously though, if you're a F1 fan, you owe it to yourself to track down a copy of this episode.  It's really quite special.  As Top Gear is the world's most downloaded TV program, it shouldn't be hard to find.

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July 05, 2011

F1 on TV!: Britian 2011

If Monaco is the glamorous soul of Formula 1, and Monza the basic essence of Formula 1, Silverstone Circuit, home to the 2011 British Grand Prix, is Formula 1's beating heart.  Let's take a look at this, the track where the very first official F1 race was held:

There's been some changes made since that bright day in 1950 when Giuseppi Farina brought his Alfa Romeo 158 across the line for the first ever F1 victory.  Heck, there's been some changes since last year, when they debuted the new "Arena Circuit".  Take a look:

You see the change?  They've moved the start/finish line!  Before, Copse was Turn 1, now Turn 1 is Abbey, which leads into the new part of the layout.  Of course, they've moved the pit lane and the speed trap as well.  Actually, moving the speed trap makes sense: it's now at the fastest part of the track, the Hangar Straight, just before braking for Stowe.  It'll be a bit confusing now, I expect.  For years, you came out of Woodcote, one of the faster turns in F1, for the blast to the finish line... now you're coming out of Club, which is not one of the faster turns in F1.  Copse used to be the best first turn in F1 save for Spa's La Source.  Now it's the "just" the lead-in for my favorite sequence of turns: Maggots-Becketts-Chapel.  I'd kill to have a good camera and a position right where the number "13" is located on the 2011 track map... oh, the pictures one could take.

But I digress... and I note that I'm accidentally repeating my comments from last year's F1 on TV! entry for Silverstone.  That's the problem with this sort of preview... I've been doing it for nearly six years, eventually you run out of original things to say about a circuit.

Well, the Legendary Announce Team is paid to say original things!  They'll be bringing us their usual sterling coverage of the race weekend, starting off with Friday's 1st Practice session, streaming on speedtv.com from 4am to 530am.  P2 will be live on SPEED itself from 8am to 940am.

Saturday brings us streaming coverage of P3 from 4am to 5am, leading up to the live broadcast of Quals on SPEED, airing from 7am to 830am.

Finally, the race itself will be on your local FOX affiliate from 11am to 1pm.  All times are Pond Central, of course, so add a hour for those of you who live in Jersey, subtract one hour for people who live on top of the Rocky Mountains, and take away two hours for those of you near the Pacific Ocean.

Of course F1U! will be proving that you don't have to be witty or clever to provide writeups about a Formula 1 race weekend!  See you then!

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July 04, 2011

Independence Day 2011


Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.  May we all enjoy these rights today!

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July 02, 2011

Saturday Night Tunage IV


Another Saturday night, another Saturday Night Tunage with me, DJ Wonderduck, spinning the music of my life out into the vast reaches of the intertoobs for the pleasure of you, my readers listeners.  It's almost like I'm back behind the mic at one of the various radio stations I used to work for, with one major difference: I can play what I want!  No more playlists making the music decisions for me, I'm stickin' it to The Man, go crazy folks riot in the streets woo!

Or, y'know, not.  Because rioting in the streets isn't... well... very nice.  And you're likely to be hit by a car.  I don't want you to be hit by a car, and would feel bad if my choice of music made you want to go out into the streets and riot without looking both ways first.  If you do feel an overwhelming urge to riot in the streets after listening to Saturday Night Tunage, please let me know so I can adjust my choices of music to something less riot-inducing.  Saturday Night Tunage may have been in contact with peanuts.  Saturday Night Tunage has been known to cause reactions in people with an allergy to asparagus.  Do not taunt Saturday Night Tunage.  If Saturday Night Tunage lasts for four hours or more, please contact your doctor. 

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