November 30, 2012

Well, THAT'S Just Creepy...

Yesterday, as I took a break at the Duck U Bookstore, I happened to glance at a copy of the local newspaper... and promptly my bill hit the floor.  Gathering it up, I read the article again... and felt my feathery heart sink.

For much of the past month or so, there's been a terrible story coming out about a young woman who was murdered and her body dumped in the local river.  Of course, the husband was suspected... they always are... but from what I'd been able to glean, the police didn't have enough proof to file charges.

Well, the other day the police DID charge the young woman's husband with first degree murder.  The newspaper put his picture on the front page... which is why my bill hit the floor.

I knew him.

Heck, I worked with him for a year.  It's been maybe 15 years since I last saw the guy, when I walked out of RadioShanty to take over my bookstore, but I spent plenty of time at work with him before that.  And he was just a regular guy.

To say that I was more than a little weirded out is an understatement.  Still am, truth be told.  15 years changes a person, to be sure... I'm not the same duck I was when I was 29, after all... but one never expects to hear that someone you knew may be a murderer.

Here's something to get that thought out of your head: Nori-chan in a cow suit!

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November 29, 2012

Too Cool For Stu

Over at Steven's place, his recovery is coming along well.  However, there was something interesting in his comments today, where he said:

Stu the Alpaca is going around visiting those who wish to be visited (not me).

There Steven goes again, being too cool for the room.  He probably thought that it'd go against his image as a grumpy grump what grumps grumpily to be alpacafied.  Well, we here at Wonderduck's Pond are nothing if not willing to help Steven out!  It's ALPACATIME!!!

D'awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!  If that isn't enough alpaca for ya, here's more!

But wait, that's not all!  There's also this:

There.  Now Steven's all alpacacized!  Y'know, I wasn't sure what I was gonna write about tonight...

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November 27, 2012

Name This Mystery Plane XXI

Well, the F1 season is over, which means I'll have more time to do other things here on The Pond... but until then, here's a new Mystery Ship Plane!

Since I suspect this is gonna be easy, there's no prize this time.  In this case, being first is its own reward, eh?  I've been fond of this one ever since I first found out about it some 20+ years ago.  Now, I can't stop you from cheating, but you're just losing any joy and thrill you might have gotten from winning clean.  So just don't do it, 'k?  K.  Have fun, and GUESS THAT MYSTERY SHIP PLANE!

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November 25, 2012

F1 Update!: 2012 Grand Prix of Brazil

As the field formed up on the grid behind polesitter Shiv Hamilton, the skies above Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace were... confused.  Grey, leaden clouds predominated, umbrellas popping up in the grandstands, while at the same time there were desperate glimpses of blue sky.  Despite the greasy conditions, the entire Thundering Herd was on dry tires for this final race of the season... the race that would decide the World Driver's Championship.  Would Ferrari's HWMNBN come back after leading in the points for much of the season, or would Red Bull's Seb Vettel join elite company with his third consecutive championship?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2012 Grand Prix of Brazil!

*LIGHTS OUT:  When the lights go out on a F1 race, it can sometimes be difficult to figure out what's going on.  24 cars, V8 engines screaming at 18000 rpm, all trying to slot themselves into a narrow band of asphalt can occasionally make for action-packed confusion.  And then you have starts like this one.  The two McLarens on the front row got away clean, but both Red Bulls experienced Mark Webber Lousy Start©s, letting both Ferraris do terrible things to them.  Hometown boy Felipe Massa jumped up to second, and title contender HWMNBN got ahead of rival Vettel to take fifth, while Force India's Nico Hulkenberg was a surprise sixth with Vettel on his diffuser as the field headed into Turn 4.  So far, so good... busy, but not too bad. 

*LOOK OUT!!!:  As the bunched-up field of cars began to enter Turn 4, there was a sudden billow of tire smoke as someone discovered that they'd missed their braking point.  That someone was Seb Vettel.  Kimi Raikkonen was forced to dive offtrack to avoid plowing into the back of the wallowing RB8, which then maneuvered into Turn 4.  At the same time, the Williams of Brazilian Bruno Senna, passing two cars in the turn, pulled next to Vettel who appeared not to see the Williams.  The coming-together sent Senna careening into the Sauber of Sergio Perez, ending both drivers' races.  But what of Vettel?  This is the view he had after the contact.

By luck and skilled driving, nobody else slammed into the backwards-rolling leader.  After the remaining cars swept by, Vettel righted his ship and rejoined the race, albeit in 22nd and last place.  The Williams launching itself off his left side managed to damage the RB8's sidepod and floor, doing unrepairable damage.  And then, it began to rain.

*THAT WAS ONE LAP!:   ...and Brazil is a short track, to boot.  By the end of Turn 1 on Lap 2, HWMNBN had jumped to third place, behind Shiv Hamilton and Jenson Button, and was on-pace to win the Driver's Championship.  Of course, there were 70 laps to go, but one got the feeling that back in Maranello, there were people in the belltowers, polishing their clappers to give a perfect tone.

*THE RAIN:  As those things go, the rain wasn't much of a much.  However, it doesn't take much wet to make a F1 car skittish, and what was on the track was just worst type of rain possible: there was enough to make the asphalt slippery, but not enough to consider changing to intermediate tires.  HWMNBN lost third place to Nico Hulkenberg when he slipped off-course, but managed to stay ahead of the closely pursuing Mark Webber.  Two laps later, the Aussie wound up spinning off, just moments after the Lotus of Lettuce Grosjean ended up in the wall, recording a reading of 7.2 g in the process.  Oh, and the McLaren teammates were trading the lead between themselves and Seb Vettel had made it up to 7th place.  Yep, it was going to be that sort of race.  Eventually, teams began to wise up to the fact that the track was begging to have intermediate rain tires on it and drivers began to pile in.

*MEANWHILE:  Not everybody, however.  Jenson Button stayed out, as did Nico Hulkenberg, who moved into second place and was rapidly catching the McLaren up.  One might be excused for thinking that's an odd result, but remember: two years ago in qualifying, in exactly the same conditions as these, Hulkenberg earned an out-of-nowhere pole here at Brazil.  There are certain drivers who like certain tracks in certain conditions, and it appears that Hulkenberg at Brazil in light rain is one of those great combinations.  Throw in a set-up dialed in for these conditions by the team, and suddenly it's not so far-fetched.  The pass for the lead finally happened on Lap 19, and a Force India was legitimately leading a race.

*HUH?:  Then something really odd happened.  While everybody else was pitting for intermediate tires, Red Bull decided to do something they didn't need to do: gamble with Vettel's tires.  He pitted on Lap 20, rejoining with the dry-weather prime (hard compound) tires on his steed.  The benefits of this choice were not readily apparent to either the F1U! team or the Legendary Announce Team.  Fortunately for him and his title hopes, he wouldn't have to worry about them for very long.

*SAFETY CAR:  On Lap 22, HWMNBN called his pits to report a lot of debris on the track, and he wasn't wrong.  Through various contacts, lost noses, damaged endplates and the like, there was probably enough spare parts on the circuit to build a new car.  Charlie Whiting apparently agreed, and called out Berndt Maylander.  Nico Hulkenberg and Jenson Button, who had opened a 45 second lead on Shiv Hamilton in third, had to have been beside themselves.  When the Safety Car left the Thundering Herd to its own devices on Lap 30, the order was Nico Hulkenberg, Jenson Button, Shiv Hamilton, HWMNBN, and Seb Vettel, who was under investigation for passing Gandalf Kobayashi under yellow flag conditions back around Lap 16 (he was cleared).  And then the rain stopped and the track began to dry.

*CONFUSED YET?:  Now you know how we here at F1U! feel.

*DRY MEANS... SLOW?:  All week long, Ferrari had been performing rain dances, thinking that was their best chance to get HWMNBN his championship.  Ironically, as things dried out Seb Vettel began to slow down.  The aerodynamic damage from his Lap 1 accident wasn't much of a hindrance in the wet, but as speeds began to build, it proved to make things quite difficult for the young German.  From fifth place, he began to lose contact and drift back, eventually falling down to 10th place after pitting for medium tires on Lap 53.  Meanwhile, the undamaged Ferrari could do nothing against the three cars ahead of him.

*AWWWWWWW... SHHHHHUCKS.
:  Eventually, all good things must come to an end, and Shiv Hamilton managed to get past the Force India of Nico Hulkenberg as the returning rain caused Hulkenberg to lose just enough grip to nearly lose it on Lap 49.  The German kept in contact with the Brit, however, and on Lap 55 saw an opportunity to retake the lead as Heikki Kovaleinninninnie's Caterham came into view at Turn 1.  A momentary loss of traction made the Force India fishtail... right into the side of the McLaren.

Hamilton's front suspension folded itself like origami, ending his McLaren career on the spot.  The Force India bounced a couple of times, but suffered no obvious damage and, after recovering from the spin, continued on in second place, having seen Jenson Button get past.  This also had the effect of promoting HWMNBN to third place, the bare minimum he needed to have any chance of winning the driver's championship.

*RAIN FALLS:  Then around Lap 60, the skies opened up.  Nico Hulkenberg, obviously having some ill effects of the Hamilton contact, had slumped to 5th place, with Button leading Massa, HWMNBN (who had pitted for inters), Mark Webber, Slappy Schumacher in 6th place, then Seb Vettel.  Unsurprisingly, HWMNBN got to sweep by his teammate for second, which cut Vettel's championship lead to merely one point. 

*ENDGAME:  Unfortunately, there was nothing that HWMNBN could do against the McLaren ahead of him, so he had to hope for the Red Bull behind him to make a mistake or have a late-race failure.  This was not an impossibility; the sidepod damage that Vettel's RB8 had suffered included a crushed exhaust outlet, which if it cracked open would set the car ablaze.  The young German had also had a radio failure, perhaps the first indication of an electrical failure.  Or maybe Slappy Schumacher, in the last race of his career, would take offense to being passed by a young upstart and hipcheck him to Belo Horizonte.  None of these things occurred... indeed, Slappy was passed by Vettel for 6th on Lap 65.  At this point, Red Bull was on the radio, on the off-chance that their driver could hear them, telling him to "just keep it on the black part."  With darkness falling and the rain coming down even harder, this was becoming more and more difficult to accomplish, until it all became moot.  On Lap 70, Paul di Resta, in the other Force India, lost control and clouted the wall halfway between Turns 13 and 14, then slid all the way up to 14, leaving pieces of the car behind as it went.  A Safety Car was called for, and all positions were locked in.  Jenson Button had won his third race of the year, HWMNBN led his teammate home in second and third, respectively... and Seb Vettel finished in sixth place, winning the World Driver's Championship by 3 points after an extraordinary race.

*AND THEN...:  HWMNBN climbed from his car and... just stood there, seemingly for an hour, all sorts of emotions visible in his eyes.

Eventually, he made his way to the gathered Ferrari mechanics and thanked them, but in a way that made it clear, he wasn't happy at all with the way things had worked out.  Meanwhile, a few yards down the pit lane, a whole different emotion was on display.

Almost as soon as he was out of his RB8, Slappy Schumacher was there to congratulate Seb Vettel, a lad who had grown up idolizing the older man. 

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Jenson Button.  HWMNBN did everything he needed to do to win, but couldn't come close to either McLaren.  Button never put himself in a position where he could be taken out by a poorly-placed Force India, managed his car brilliantly on a wet track with dry tires, and all-in-all owned this race.  Well-deserved.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  They couldn't get their man the championship, but they still brought home a 2-3 finish and locked up second place in the constructor's championship.  Not bad for a car that was pretty much average all year.  Honorable Mention to Caterham for finishing in 11th today and therefore finishing the Constructor's Championship in 10th, therefore taking home a big check and probably bringing back Heikki Kovaleinninninnie in the process.

*MOVE OF THE RACE
:  We here at F1U! have a rule against awarding MotR or MooootR to anything that occurs on Lap 1.  Lap 2, however, is fair game, and HWMNBN announced that he wanted this championship badly.  As Lap 1 came to an end, he was in 5th place, behind Webber in 4th and Massa in 3rd.

As they raced down the front straight, HWMNBN slipstreamed behind both cars, then dodged inside.

Obviously Massa wasn't going to be putting up much of a fight, but Webber was a different story.

As they raced into Turn 1, HWMNBN kept the inside line, braked a smidge later and picked up both places in one swoop, despite some serious efforts from the Red Bull driver to prevent it.  Well done, HWMNBN, and while it's no replacement for the championship, it's still something.

*MOOOOOO-OOOOVE OF THE RACE
:  This was just weird.  On Lap 54, Kimi Raikkonen got bit by the dampening track and wound up going off at Turn 1.  Fortunately for him, there's a lot of run-off area there now... enough that he found himself on an access road behind the grass near Turns 1 and 2.  Instead of cutting across the grass, he followed the road, obviously thinking yes, this will take me back to the track.

Instead, it took him onto the OLD Interlagos circuit, and henceforth to a dead end.  He was obliged to do a U-turn and come back the way he came... one can only imagine a GPS device screaming "recalculating" furiously at him as he tried to figure out where he was.  Thanks, Kimi, for the comedy relief!  Here's your Moooo!

*SELECTED DRIVER QUOTES OF THE RACE
:

more...

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November 24, 2012

F1 Quals: Brazil 2012

So, just like the weather forecasters predicted, it didn't start to rain until after the session ended... they just got the session wrong!  Rain began to fall after P3, and didn't stop until a few minutes into Q1.  So what sort of mischief did that cause to Quals?  Let's take a look at the provisional grid for the 2012 Grand Prix of Brazil:

P Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Shiv Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:15.075 1:13.398 1:12.458
2 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:15.456 1:13.515 1:12.513
3 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:16.180 1:13.667 1:12.581
4 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:15.644 1:13.209 1:12.760
5 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:16.263 1:14.048 1:12.987
6 Pai-de-santo Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:16.266 1:13.698 1:13.174
7 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:15.536 1:13.704 1:13.206
8 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:16.097 1:13.856 1:13.253
9 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 1:16.432 1:13.698 1:13.298
10 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:15.929 1:13.848 1:13.489
11 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:15.901 1:14.121
12 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1:15.333 1:14.219
13 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1:15.974 1:14.234
14 Slappy Schumacher Mercedes 1:16.005 1:14.334
15 Gandalf Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:16.400 1:14.380
16 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:16.744 1:14.574
17 Jules Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:16.722 1:14.619
18 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:16.967

19 The Red Menace
Caterham-Renault 1:17.073

20 Heikki Kovalaineninnie Caterham-Renault 1:17.086

21 Tim O'Glockenspiel Marussia-Cosworth 1:17.508

22 Charles ToothPic Marussia-Cosworth 1:18.104

23 Narain Kittylitter HRT-Cosworth 1:19.576

24 Pete Rose
HRT-Cosworth 1:19.699


Q1 107% Time
1:20.330

Well, in the long run, not much at all.  The two McLarens had been fast all weekend, with Button leading the way in P3 earlier; there is some question as to just how much wing they're running, however.  This could be massively important, as the forecast for Sunday remains a race aquatic.  If they're running a dry setup, it only figures they'd be faster than a car prepared for a wet race... and they'll drown come Sunday.  If, however, the McLarens are this fast without compromising a wet setup... well.

It's no surprise to see the two Red Bulls up towards the top of the sheet, obviously.  It IS a little surprising to see HWMNBN so far down, but we don't know how heavy the team went with the weather setup.  He might be in the best shape of the bunch if they've really cranked on the wing.  We just won't know until the race begins... assuming it rains.  And every red-blooded F1 fan has gotta be hoping for rain.  You know that Ferrari has mechanics behind their pit stalls making carbon-fiber rain turtles.

One still has to give Vettel the advantage at the moment, though.  We will see tomorrow, won't we?  The race is in the morning, F1U! thereafter.  See ya then!

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November 23, 2012

Too Ornery To Go For Long

Steven's back, and he's responding very well to therapy!

What a relief!

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F1 Practice: Brazil 2012

The last Friday of the 2012 F1 season brought us what might well be the last sunny day of the weekend; the forecast for Saturday is for rain which might hold off long enough to get Quals in the books.  Sunday, on the other hand, calls for a grumpy old man (Bernie?) with a long beard (not Bernie) building an ark in the infield section of Interlagos.  Probably because Ferrari is sending the team jets over São Paolo every half-hour, dumping oil drums of silver iodide into the clouds.  Hey, anything to help HWMNBN, right? 

It turns out that there's a lot of lasts happening this Sunday.  It's the last time the Legendary Announce Team will be together on SPEED.  I've already gone over my views of that tragedy, so I won't rehash them here, but I will point out that they were reminiscing something fierce during the P2 broadcast and were incredibly funny in the process.  If you've watched a few races in the past, Quals might be worth watching for that alone.

It's also the last race Shiv Hamilton will be driving for McLaren.  Fresh off his victory last weekend here in the good ole U-S-of-A, he's apparently trying to go out in style; he was the fastest in both P1 and P2.  He's already admitted that he doesn't expect to be competing for victories next year with Mercedes, so this might be the last chance he has for a win in a while.  There's also the shot to play spoiler in the great HWMNBN vs Sebby V battle, can't forget that.

Sunday is also probably going to be the last time we see HRT ever.  They've been running on the proverbial shoestring for the past three seasons, and reports are that everybody who isn't on the team's flyaway crew has been pink-slipped.  The race team will get their termination notices upon return to the factory in Spain after Sunday.  At this point, I'm seriously rooting for them to earn a point on Sunday... the influx of cash from the TV revenue they'd earn might be enough to keep 'em alive.  Otherwise, we'll probably have another SuperAguri situation, where bits and pieces go up for auction.  That'd be a flat-out shame... they gave it a good shot and deserved some small success, instead of being a constant laughing-stock.

Then finally, this is also the final weekend for one of the greats of the sport.  It just won't be the same without Gandalf Kobayashi, who seems to have lost his seat at Sauber in 2013 Michael "Slappy" Schumacher.  Consider this: if either Vettel or HWMNBN win the championship, it'll be the third of their career.  Schumacher has SEVEN, including five in a row (2000-2004).  He has more wins than many of the drivers in the field has starts.  He has over 300 starts, 68 poles, 77 fast laps, and on and on.  The past three years have not been kind to his legacy, but he should still go down in history as arguably the greatest F1 driver of all time (and if not, one of the top three for sure).  I'm not going to say that I like him, because that'd be a flat-out lie, but one can't be a F1 fan without acknowledging his level of excellence.  His helmet this week bears a legend: "Life is about passions.  Thank you for sharing mine."  That about sums it up.

Quals in the morning.

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November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012



Clearly inspired by friend GreyDuck's Quacked Panes.

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November 21, 2012

Ducks In Anime: Art School Called


-Hidamari Sketch x Honeycomb Ep07

I'm noting a distinct whiff of "artsy-fartsy" coming from HSxH these days.  I can hear you now: "Wonderduck," you say, "it's an anime about students at an art school... what did you expect?"  And you're right, of course.  You then continue, "Plus, it's animated by SHAFT, the reigning monarchs of artsy-fartsy anime."  And I can't disagree.

What can I say?  I'm a simple duck.  I like my ducks in anime to be simple.  But HSxH has been pulling out the odd camera angles of late and that scares and confuses me. 

The newbies are disappointed.

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November 20, 2012

COTA Swag

I dragged myself into the Duck U Bookstore today, the way anybody who's in the middle of a really short work week does.  All in all, just a 'meh' sort of day, y'know?  Yeah, you know exactly what I'm talking about.  Where was I?  Oh, right, right, dragged myself into work, expecting I'd just be doing another day of entering textbook adoptions, getting ready for end-of-semester buyback, that sort of thing, when Our Man Dan walks in.  Dan, you may remember, was brought in by the Foodservice company that serves the Circuit of the Americas to help with the 2012 United States Grand Prix.  He was also supposed to bring back some souvenirs of the circuit for me... and in this, he succeeded beyond my realistic dreams!

Here's the whole thing; click on the picture for a larger version.  What we've got is the CotA ballcap with the 2012 USGP logo on one side, and the trackmap on the other, the official CotA schedule/map, a couple of pins, a CotA Event Staff lanyard, a regular CotA lanyard with a staff parking pass, and of course the pennant in back.  Baby!  I was just blown away by it all this morning.  It turns out he wasn't stationed at Turn 19, as they had originally planned, which is why he didn't bring me in any carbonfiber shards.  No, instead he was all over the circuit, and apparently has already been told that he'll be back next year.  And so will I... I've already made the decision, I'm gonna be there in 2013.

Here's a closeup of the pins.  Dan was amazed at how loud the cars were, even though I warned him.  I think we may have a budding fan in the making, actually...

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November 19, 2012

F1 on SPEED!: Brazil 2012

And so it comes to this.  One race for all the marbles.  Ferrari vs Red Bull.  HWMNBN vs Seb Vettel.  On my least favorite circuit in F1.  Here's the track map for the 2012 Grand Prix of Brazil:

Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, colloquially known as Interlagos, has been the home of the Brazilian Grand Prix (that's a lot of grands prix!) since 1973, and has been my least favorite circuit ever since I became a huge F1 fan in 2004.  It's strange that I hate the track so much, since it's got a lot of the features I regularly like.  First and foremost, it's not flat.  The start/finish straight is the high-altitude mark of the layout, but it rapidly dives away at Turn 1 to Turn 3.  It stays flat all the way to Turn 11, then begins to regain all the height lost from Turns 12 to 15. 

It's this uphill climb where we've seen the most exciting finish to a Formula 1 season ever, in 2008.  Ferrari's Felipe Massa had won the race, and what appeared to be his first Driver's Championship as well.  His only rival, McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, was in 6th place, but needed to finish 5th to win the Championship... and he'd just been passed by a young driver named Seb Vettel, driving for Toro Rosso.  It looked like Massa had his elusive Championship... until Tim O'Glockenspiel, driving for Toyota, nearly spun his car in wet conditions in Turn 14 on the last lap.  Hamilton got past him for 5th and his first Championship.

This year, rain is in the picture again, with thunderstorms on tap for Saturday, and rain on Sunday.  It's 2008 all over again, and god help me I'm rooting for HWMNBN.  Well, that's not really true... I'm more rooting against Seb Vettel.  I don't want him to win three championships in a row, so sue me.  Rain is another thing we often see at Interlagos, and that often leads to fun races.

It's also a fast track, with only the twiddlybits from Turn 6 thru 11 being slow-ish.  The rest is nearly all flat-out.  I'd always rather see race cars going quickly than going slowly, so again, I should like Interlagos.

But I don't.  It's always seems grey there, and it's dangerous to boot (three racers died there in 2011).  And it's the end of the F1 season until March.  How can anybody like that?  THIS year, it's also the end of the Legendary Announce Team, as F1 leaves SPEED after Sunday.  We've still got them for one more race, so let's enjoy it while we can.  Here's the schedule of events.
FRIDAY
P1: 6a - 730a streaming
P2: 10a - 1130a  live
SATURDAY
P3: 7a - 8a streaming
Quals: 10a - 1130a  live-ish
SUNDAY
930a - 12noon: 2012 Grand Prix of Brazil  live

Of course, F1 Update! will be all over the weekend, though we may take a miss on the streaming things.  We'll see you then!

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November 18, 2012

F1 Update!: 2012 United States Grand Prix

They say they do things big in Texas... big country, big cattle, big hats, and now, biggest of all, the big Circuit of the Americas in Austin.  The past few days has confirmed that it's a nice looking track, but how will it race?  Who would win the return of F1 to the US?  And biggest of all, would Seb Vettel and Red Bull take home the two championships: Drivers and Constructors?  Or would HWMNBN and Ferrari manage to stretch them both out to the last race in Brazil?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2012 United States Grand Prix!

*BEFORE:  Things looked bleak for HWMNBN.  He qualified ninth behind Vettel's pole, and when Lotus' Lettuce Grosjean served his five grid-spot penalty, he got bumped up to eighth, but to the dirty side of the track.  The consensus view was that trying to start on the dirty side would be similar to running in the wet: lousy.  Some wags were even saying that being on the even-numbered side would immediately cost a driver four places at the start.  And then Ferrari did something quite sneaky, quite legal, and very, very clever: they snipped the FIA seal on Felipe Massa's gearbox.  You see, once a car begins Quals, it is in parc ferme condition and unable to have any changes done to it beyond the most basic (front wing angle changes, mostly).  Things like engines, gearboxes and the like are sealed by the FIA with a lead... well, seal.  If that seal is broken during parc ferme, there's an immediate penalty.  This morning, Ferrari walked into the stewards' office and dropped the two chunks of seal on the desk.  Of course, there was nothing to be done but give Felipe Massa a penalty... the team didn't even change the gearbox, they just broke the seal.  Massa was dropped down to 11th, and HWMNBN was promoted to 7th place.  On the clean side of the track.  Somewhere, an evil genius is rubbing his hands together, cackling "excellent, excellent!" to himself.  And wearing red.

*LIGHTS OUT:  While being on the clean side of the track did not, in fact, immediately convey a four-spot advantage to those fortunate enough to reside there, it certainly helped HWMNBN.  By the time he maneuvered his way up Phil Hill and Turn 1, he was in fourth.  Meanwhile, McLaren's Shiv Hamilton, starting second on the dirty side of the grid, lost a place to Vettel's teammate Mark Webber... and at this point, we here at F1U! want to point out the greatest visual we've ever seen in Formula 1:

We've been expecting this ever since we saw the elevation map for the Circuit of the Americas, and we're glad the F1 camera team caught it.  Now, Vettel and Webber in front set up the worst nightmare of the fan hoping for an exciting race: two Red Bulls galloping off into the sunset, and of course Seb Vettel began to pull away from his teammate.  But Hamilton, knowing that he couldn't let the German get away if he wanted to win this race, pushed Webber hard.

*NOW IT'S A RACE!:  It only took four laps for Hamilton to get past the Australian, and he immediately set off after the leader.  There was about three seconds between the two, and for once, it was clear that the combination of Vettel and RB8 chassis wasn't, in fact, the best car/driver combo on the track.  No, today it seemed that Hamilton and the McLaren MP4/27 was the class of the field, for he began to rip off fast lap after fast lap in his pursuit of the reigning world champion.  By Lap 10, the lead was cut in half, to 1.5 seconds, with Webber 4.5 seconds behind Hamilton, and HWMNBN a further three seconds adrift and not making any headway on the Australian.  However, nobody else could hold a candle to him as Nico Hulkenberg was nine seconds behind in fifth and fading.

*MARANELLO CHUCKLING
:  Considering that everybody was predicting a one-stop strategy, seeing cars beginning to make their way into the pits on Lap 14 had to be a surprise.  What wasn't really surprising was the radio call to Mark Webber on Lap 16: "KERS has failed, KERS has failed."  How many times have we heard Red Bull say that this year?  Ferrari certainly began to get excited about that, and only got moreso when, a moment later, the Aussie pulled to the side of the circuit with a cascading electronics failure.  This promoted HWMNBN into third place... but it was still early.  Hamilton and the Ferrari pilot pitted on Lap 21, with Vettel doing the same on 22.  Unsurprisingly, he kept his lead during his stop and when the rotation was over, everything remained the same: Vettel, Hamilton and farther back, HWMNBN.

*NO WAY!:  While Hamilton kept on coming, it looked like he could get close, but couldn't make the move on the leader.  The McLaren's advantage in top speed and parity in the twisty bits began to tell, so that by Lap 40, the gap between the two was down to 0.6 seconds, well within the DRS activation range.  On Lap 42, the two encountered the HRT of Narain Kittylitter in the 'esses' and Vettel had some trouble getting around the backmarker, allowing Hamilton to close up even more.  At this point, Vettel was complaining on the radio about Kittylitter slowing him up, none of which made any difference.  As the leaders entered the DRS activation zone, the McLaren had a huge advantage in speed.  Vettel made it difficult, maybe even stretching the rules as he kinda-sorta weaved a little bit as Hamilton closed in, but it made no difference: the RB8 was passed for the lead, and Maranello was suddenly going crazy.

*THE END:  Hamilton quickly opened a 1.5 second lead over Vettel, who was over a half-minute ahead of HWMNBN, and for all intents and purposes, that's how the race ended.  On the final lap, Vettel cut the lead to under a second, but couldn't get any closer and Shiv Hamilton, winner of the last US Grand Prix at Indianapolis, became the first winner of the US Grand Prix at Austin.  Vettel came home in second place, with HWMNBN in third, minimizing the damage to his championship hopes to only three standing points.  The German now has a 13 point lead over the Ferrari driver as they head into the last race of the season in Brazil.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Shiv Hamilton.  He's been saying that he wanted one more win with McLaren before he leaves the team.  He's been saying that he really wanted this one.  He got it with a sterling drive, taking advantage of every and any opening given him by Seb Vettel, few they may have been.  Nearly perfect.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  They only had one car finish the race, and they somehow lost the lead in the process, but Red Bull locked up the Constructor's Championship here at the United States Grand Prix.  It's their third year running for the championship, and there's little doubt they really have joined the big names of the sport for good... or at least until Adrian Newey, designer of the Red Bull chassis, retires.  And Seb Vettel has still got to be the favorite for the driver's championship.

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  It may not have been the best pass of the weekend, but it was certainly the most important.  On Lap 42, Lewis Hamilton had been reeling in Seb Vettel for nigh on 20 laps and finally had the opportunity to pass the Red Bull for the lead.

As they came down the long back straight, the McLaren driver had three advantages: first, he had a lovely tow from the Red Bull.  Second, he had a higher top speed, and finally, he got to use his DRS.

None of this was going to make Seb Vettel just allow the Brit by; he gave a quick juke to the right before backing down... Vettel knew he had more important things to deal with than just this race, after all.

Still, if Vettel could have kept the McLaren in hand, he could have used the DRS trick on the next lap.  He couldn't; by the time the detection zone came around on Lap 43, the lead was over a second and the McLaren was in the clear.  This one pass cost Vettel seven championship points... if he loses the championship next week, you can point to this Move of the Race as the reason why.

*MOOOOOOOO-OOOOVE OF THE RACE:  There really weren't any.  Everybody did a fine job except for Jules Vergne breaking his suspension on a curb.  So instead, I'm going to give this award to a pair of people... two fans who were very happy that Lewis Hamilton passed Seb Vettel.  Two fans with absolutely no coordination whatsoever. 


On world-wide television, with maybe 300 million people watching, you completely whiffed a high-five.  Excellent.  Have a Moo!

*SELECTED DRIVER QUOTES OF THE RACE:


more...

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USGP 2012 Race Notes

Right, it's race day in Austin!  It's 71 degrees and sunny at the Circuit of the Americas, and Ferrari are playing tricks!  Let's get to the pre-race stuff.

In an attempt to help HWMNBN's chance at the Championship, Ferrari has come up with something legal, but sneaky.  Felipe Massa, who qualified ahead of the Spaniard, had to "change a gearbox" about two hours ago, and will take a five-spot grid penalty.  As a result, HWMNBN will now start on the clean side of the track in 7th, not in 8th on the dirty.  The team has actually come out and admitted that they've done this "for strategy considerations."  Clever, very clever.  Shame for Massa, who honestly couldn't have expected to be allowed to stay ahead of his teammate at any time.  The drivers are saying that starting on the dirty side of the track is like starting on a wet track with slick tires.  Look for HWMNBN to make quite the jump at the start.  He has to if he wants to win a championship.

If he finishes worse than 5th and Vettel wins, the championship is over.  There is no way that HWMNBN can win the championship today, unless Vettel gets injured and can't start in Brazil... and nobody wants that.

Now THAT'S a flyby: one F-16, one P-38, and two P-51s!

I'm gonna enjoy the race instead of writing anything about it.  See ya with the F1U!

UPDATE:  Now THAT'S how you do a race!  If every USGP is gonna be like that one, F1 is gonna catch on here big-time!

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November 17, 2012

F1 Quals: 2012 United States Grand Prix!

(PRE-SESSION) Here we are, with the first session that actually means something this weekend!  Having said that, we don't know how much it means since the Circuit of the Americas is a brand new track.  It could be that it's an awful racing circuit that encourages nothing but parades meaning that qualifying position is incredibly important... or it could be that it works so well that the winner can come from anywhere on the grid!  We just don't know right now... but we will soon.

Here's what we DO know already: Lettuce Grosjean did indeed have to change his gearbox, meaning he's got a five gridspot penalty ahead of him.

Q1
Nobody pitted.  The tires were so difficult to get heat into that everybody stayed out and just kept running and running and running... until Narain Kittylitter came to a stop just off track at Turn 2, probably out of fuel.  This brought out a yellow flag, meaning that it was going to be very difficult for drivers to improve their positions.  For most this was okay, but it meant that Nico Rosberg needed a heckuva lap to get himself into Q2... he got it, but only just: he finished 17th.

Those eliminated, from 18th down: Daniel Ricciardo, Tim O'Glockenspiel, Charles ToothPic, The Red Menace, Heikki Kovaleinninninnie, Pete Rose and Narain Kittylitter.

Both HRTs came in under the 107% rule, so they get to race on Sunday without begging the stewards for permission.

Q2
Nobody pitted again... except for Jenson Button.  He "lost the power, lost the power" with three minutes and a full track to go, and somehow managed to limp back to the pits.  When he made it to the pits, he was 8th on the board.  By the time the session was over, he was bumped to 12th and out of Quals altogether.  SPEED managed to catch the team working on something at the front of the car (throttle pedals?) just before Quals began, and McLaren's engineers dove right for the same spot on the car when it came to a stop. 

Those eliminated from 11th down to 17th: Bruno Senna, Jenson Button, Paul diResta, Jules Vergne, Sergio Perez, Gandalf Kobayashi, and Nico Rosberg.

Q3
AGAIN nobody pits.  Heck, for all we know, some drivers were still on the same tires they used in Q2.  Nobody broke down, nobody ran out of fuel, and Vettel just embarrassed the field.  The Top 10 (before penalties) are:

1) Seb Vettel  2) Shiv Hamilton 3) Mark Webber  4) Lettuce Grosjean  5) Mumbles Raikkonen  6) Slappy Schumacher  7) Felipe Massa   8) Nico Hulkenberg  9) HWMNBN  10) Pastor Maldonado

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:36.558 1:35.796 1:35.657
2 Shiv Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:37.058 1:36.795 1:35.766
3 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:37.215 1:36.298 1:36.174
4 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:37.486 1:36.906 1:36.587
5 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 1:38.051 1:37.404 1:36.708
6 Slappy Schumacher Mercedes 1:37.927 1:37.102 1:36.794
7 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:37.667 1:36.549 1:36.937
8 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:37.756 1:37.066 1:37.141
9 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:37.968 1:37.123 1:37.300
10 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:37.537 1:37.011 1:37.842
11 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1:37.520 1:37.604
12 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:37.565 1:37.616
13 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:38.104 1:37.665
14 Jules Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:38.434 1:37.879
15 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1:38.500 1:38.206
16 Gandalf Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:38.418 1:38.437
17 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:38.862 1:38.501
18 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:39.114

19 Tim O'Glockenspiel Marussia-Cosworth 1:40.056

20 Charles ToothPic Marussia-Cosworth 1:40.664

21 Red Menace
Caterham-Renault 1:40.809

22 Heikki Kovalaineninnie Caterham-Renault 1:41.166

23 Pete Rose
HRT-Cosworth 1:42.011

24 Narain Kittylitter HRT-Cosworth 1:42.740


Q1 107% Time
1:43.317

Amazingly, this is Vettel's 100th Grand Prix, and his 36th pole.  Good lord.  This is a terrible result if you're rooting for HWMNBN; ninth is horrible.  Two places behind your teammate is even worse... and this is a guy driving for the Championship!  Then again, Vettel has completely dominated this race weekend, so it's not exactly a surprise that he's gotta be the favorite tomorrow.

Right, the 2012 United States Grand Prix will be on Sunday, with the F1Update! coming sometime thereafter... we might have some in-race comments, too.  We will see you tomorrow!

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F1 United States Practice 3: Liveblogging!

(PRE-SESSION)  So here we are again!  It's 45 degrees and sunny at the Circuit of the Americas, looking for a high of 68.  That's a little cooler than F1 tires like, but it's certainly good enough.  In any case, Practice 3 is only 60 minutes in length, as opposed to the usual 90.  I'll be using the time remaining as the time notation:  if you see (45:30), that means 14.5 minutes have gone by in the session.  Read from (60:00).  Please keep all extremities inside the blog at all times.  Wonderduck's Pond is not responsible for any injuries incurred in the reading of Wonderduck's Pond.  Post no bills.  Accept no substitutes!

(60:00)  Look, we've gone green on Saturday!  First out is Gandalf Kobayashi on SPEED's streaming site.

(57:52)  Wow, 60000 people at COTA yesterday, 80000 expected today?  There are a dozen actual races that don't get that many spectators on the calendar!

(55:37)  Sebby Vettel very nearly pranged his car in the pit lane.  Whoopsy!

(53:55)  Narain Kittylitter is third on the time sheets as SPEED goes to commercial... that might be the first time I've ever seen his picture on the screen during a session.  At least, on the "first page," not at the end.

(50:11) Just a picture, nothing really happening.

Kimi at the far end of the esses.

The rest will be below the fold.

more...

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November 16, 2012

F1 Practice 2: United States!

There are moments in time where I wish I didn't know as much backstory to things F1-related.  One of those moments occurred during Practice 2, with about 34 minutes left.  The Legendary Announce Team was bickering amongst themselves, mostly Matchett and Hobbs giving The Varsha grief about his focus on someone reaching the 200mph point for the first time.  Finally, The Varsha plaintively said "C'mon guys, work with me... there's not much time left."  I get the feeling that he wasn't just talking about the practice session.

In that practice session, we saw a lot of running by everybody but Seb Vettel and the two HRTs.  The Spanish team is having financial difficulties, and stopped short of saying that they weren't running because of that.  If you've got $40million lying around, you can buy the team!  And if you do, let me know... I'd very much like to talk to you about a Wonderduck's Pond sponsorship sticker somewhere.  I'd also like to know just how the heck you can afford $40million and you haven't mentioned it before this... but back to F1.  Seb Vettel missed a good chunk of the session with his car up on jacks, leaking coolant fluid from its KERS unit.  As the Legendary Announce Team pointed out, if you were going to have a problem, this was a good one to have because Mark Webber had the exact same problem at Abu Dhabi.  The team already knew how to deal with it!  It still took most of the session, but Vettel still had enough time on track to break the 1:37 barrier, ending the day with a 1:37.718, almost three-quarters of a second faster than Webber and HWMNBN, and over a second ahead of the two McLarens.  Yeeeeeesh.

I'm going to gush a bit more about the Circuit of the Americas now.  We may not get a good race on Sunday, seeing how Vettel is looking like he's got a JATO unit stuck up his backside, but it won't be because of the track.  I'm already convinced that it's the best new-style circuit on the calendar, and it matches places like Montreal and Suzuka.  It may even move into the Silverstone/Spa level of racetrack if we get a good race on Sunday.  I'm probably overrating it because it's an American track, but I'll be darned if it isn't just perfect.

Baby.  P3 tomorrow at 9am, I'll be livebloggin' that.  Quals at noon, and I have no idea what I'm doing for it!  How do you liveblog quals???  See you tomorrow!

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F1 United States Practice 1: Liveblogging!

(PRE-SESSION) The day has finally come.  In just a short while, we will see actual F1 cars running on Austin's Circuit of the Americas.  Of course, it's all just a run-up to the actual United States Grand Prix on Sunday, but we'll be happy with this right now. 

As in the past liveblogging sessions, this session is 90 minutes in length.  I'll be using the time remaining as the time notation:  if you see (1:02:30), that means 27.5 minutes have gone by in the session.  Read from (1:30:00).  Do not taunt kimiraikkonen.  If kimiraikkonen begins to smoke, seek shelter and cover head.  Kimiraikkonen may suddenly accelerate to dangerous speeds.  Accept no substitutes!

(1:30:00) The track is open!  The first man officially to enter the circuit is... Tim O'Glockenspiel?  Rock on!

(1:26:55)  Felipe Massa: "I'ts very slippery track, very slippery."  Well, yeah.

(1:25:53)  Oh no... The Legendary Announce Team is going to call Turn 1 "Phil Hill."  Shoot me now.

(1:23:30) Nico Hulkenberg: "It's worse than rain... it's like the tires aren't even turning, it's so slippery."

(1:22:44) What's Phil Hill look like from the cockpit?

Yeah, kinda like that... haven't quite reached the apex.  Track?  What track?  It just sorta disappears.

The rest will be below the fold.

more...

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November 14, 2012

Trying Not To Pee Myself With Excitement


Just look at that.  I'm giggling just thinking about what's going to happen when the lights go out on Sunday.

If I'm not wrong, this shot seems to be from the inside of Turn 14 looking across at Turn 1.  My word, this is gonna be fun!

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November 13, 2012

Aw, Crap On A Stick...

Steven had a stroke the other night.

'Round these here parts, there ain't nobody happy 'bout this.  Get better soonest, Steven!

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November 12, 2012

F1 on SPEED!: UNITED STATES! WOO! FINALLY!

The debut of a new track is always the highlight of a Formula 1 season.  But when it's a new track located in the United States after five years away?  Oh yes, very yes, much yes, yes please!  Let's take a look at the track map for the 2012 United States Grand Prix:

First off, you know what this isn't?  It isn't a usual design of the evil Hermann Tilke.  This is from the good side of Tilke... the Dr Tilke to the designer of Abu Dhabi's Mr Hermann.  It also isn't flat, which may have had something to do with the success of the track design.  With a maximum elevation change of 133 feet, pretty much second only to Spa-Francopants, the layout is proving to be awfully darn dynamic.  Here's a video of a lap of the layout:


We already know about Turn 1, the blind apex of which is the highest point on the track.  It then immediately drops back down somewhat on the approach to Turn 2 and stays flat through to about Turn 7.  You then go up and down a smidge until you reach the hairpin at the far end of the circuit.  There's a small amount of down and up on the long straight, but it stays billiard-table-smooth from there until Turn 18.  From 18 to the final turn is a gentle downslope taking us down to the lowest point, the start/finish line.  Me likey.  Me likey lots.

I probably like it because of the way that Tilke blatantly stole the best parts of other circuits to make this one.  The two obvious examples are the Turn 3-4-5 complex, which is lifted from Silverstone's Maggots-Becketts-Chapel, and the rebirth of Turkey's Quad-8 at 16-17-18 here.  I'm willing to bet that every F1 fan has put together a "dream circuit" using their favorite turns from various tracks (mine has a nasty, nasty sequence of Spa's Eau Rouge leading to Laguna Seca's Corkscrew... I call it the "Screw Eau")... Hermann Tilke just got to build his.

The hard part is trying to figure out just how the circuit will race, and it's a problem that every team is going to have to figure out, and fast.  My guess, and it's only a guess based on nothing more than a visual similarity, is that it'll be like India; really fast, but without as much dust.  It's clear that nobody has the faintest idea; Pirelli probably has the most experience here, and they're bringing the Hard and Medium compounds.  That's the most conservative choice they can make, and it's simply because nobody knows what'll happen once you get 24 cars pounding around leaving rubber behind.  In fact, Pirelli has given the teams an extra set of tires for Friday, to encourage them to go out and pound around the circuit even more than they normally would.  Pirelli also believes that the asphalt is abrasive enough to call for the two hardest compounds... my guess is that next year, we'll see the Hard and Soft tires here.

Unless it rains.  If it rains, of course, all bets are off and all we'll be able to do is buckle up and hold on.  NOAA is saying that there's a 20% chance of rain Saturday and Sunday.  For once, I don't want it to rain on raceday: I wanna see this track the way it's meant to be raced.

And who will be bringing us all of the action but the Legendary Announce Team!  Let's give them their due, since this is pretty much the last time we'll see them all together, not counting Brazil, which I avoid doing at all times...

To me, these three are the voices of Formula 1.  They were the men that taught me the basics of the sport, then taught me more than that... they taught me how to be a fan.  While that fandom waxes and wanes during the year, it never falters.  It's pretty much a perfect lineup: Steve Matchett, the Constructor's Championship-winning pitlane mechanic; David Hobbs, named by the FIA as one of the 27 best drivers in the world in 1969, with seven career F1 starts, 20 LeMans green flags, Can-Am, Indy 500, even a couple of NASCAR starts (and a Honda car dealership in Milwaukee); and Bob Varsha, a professional broadcaster who has been covering Formula 1 on television since 1986.  We're unlikely to ever see and hear this trio together after this season ends, so let me say it now:

Thank you, Legendary Announce Team.  Thank you very much.

Here's SPEED's broadcast schedule for Austin, all live on TV:
FRIDAY
P1: 9a - 1030a
P2: 1p - 230p
SATURDAY
P3: 9a - 10a
Quals: 12n - 130p
SUNDAY
2012 United States Grand Prix: 1230p - 3p

They'll also be streaming live in-car cameras on the website, so watch with your laptop open and running... I will be!  I've taken Friday off from the Duck U Bookstore, and will be positioned on the couch watching it all as it happens (and I'm considering buying a new TV for it, too)... see you then!

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