March 29, 2012

High School Of The Dead Ep02

Have you ever had a bad day?  You wake up, stub your toe, slip in the shower, can't find a pair of socks that match, dump a cup of coffee on your khakis, your customers are all grumpy, the boss screams at you for nothing, your car gets a flat, the girlfriend dumps you, and finally your bed breaks and dumps you on the cat who promptly turns you into into his personal scratching post.  By the time you stop the bleeding it's three in the morning and you have to be up in a couple of hours to do it all over again.  That's a bad day.

Then there's the day Takashi and Rei are having.  The zombie apocalypse has begun, their city is in turmoil, they've seen many of their classmates eaten, and he had to put his best friend Hisashi down after he got bitten defending Rei from their Modern Japanese teacher. 

But hey, you keep mourning the loss of your quad venti skinny 170 mocha macchiato no lid double cup.  At least they have socks that match, right?

Meanwhile back in the zombie zoo, pink-haired harpy Saya Takagi has teamed up with Kohta Hirano, overweight loser and author of the Hellsing manga, and she's not happy about it.  Of all the people in the school for her, a super-genius, to end up with... he's slow, doesn't like walking, and kinda dumb.  He wears glasses.  His socks probably don't even match.  And good lord, have you read Hellsing?  What sort of twisted mind comes up with Nazi Vampires in zeppelins destroying London?  Well, there's nothing for it...

...she'll just have to boss him around until the running starts.  That way, she won't have to be faster that the zombies, she'll just have to be faster than him.  Though maybe he'll be worth keeping around, somehow, because when the zombie apocalypse occurs you still need someone to be comic relief.

Because violence and fanservice will only get you so far. 


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March 27, 2012

Just A Little Teaser

It's coming...


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March 26, 2012

Ducks In Anime: We Must Repeat

Not all that long ago, I said that I hadn't watched a single episode of Nisemonogatari.  That has now changed, and I've watched up to Ep04.  And found a better image of the duckie!

SHAFT draws the best duckies.  Hands down.

Much like Bakemonogatari, this show's predecessor, there's an awful lot of talking going on and not much of it makes a whole heckuvalotta sense.  Stylistically, it's the show of the year.  Content-wise?  Maybe not so good.  Still, it's got a duckie... that's gotta count for something.

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March 25, 2012

F1 Update!: Malaysia 2012

When it rains in F1, everything you've known previously goes out the window.  Usually this means you're in for a wacky race, as rain is The Great Equalizer.  As the storm clouds crowded around the Sepang International Circuit, it looked like we were all set for a hefty dose of the wacky.  But who would take advantage?  Who would lose out?  And would it even rain after all?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2012 Grand Prix of Malaysia!

*PRE-RACE:  The closer it got to the point where the teams had to get off the grid and the cars had to roll out on the recon lap, the closer and heavier the rainclouds got.  Then, with around five minutes to go, the rain began to fall gently upon the asphalt.  Off came the slick tires, on went the Intermediates, and the mechanics scurried to the grass.

As the cars circumnavigated the track, the calls began to come in... some parts of the circuit were wetter than others.  Maybe it was just a localized shower and the Inters would only be on for a few laps.  The Thundering Herd took their places on the grid, anticipating the extinguishing of the lights and the start of the race... but at this point, nobody noticed that the lone HRT on the grid, driven by Narain Kittylitter, was on the full wet tires, while his teammate, Pete Rose, was in the pit lane, getting the Wellingtons put on his car as well.

*LIGHTS OUT:  As the field made its way to the Turn 1/2 Complex, everything was fine, just another drive in the park.  This week, polesitter Lewis Hamilton kept his teammate Jenson Button behind as they swung through the turns, while behind them there was much in the way of sound and fury, in the end signifying nothing.  Because when they reached Turns 3 and 4, all the skies broke loose.

The Sepang International Circuit is uniquely suited for wet races, in that it is wider than most tracks at 45 feet.  This allows the field to spread out to a certain degree so as not to be blinded by the spray.  While this is great for the leaders, it just makes life even harder for the people behind.  The man they call "The Rainmaster," Slappy Schumacher, spun almost immediately upon hitting the wet, maybe taking Lettuce Grosjean with him (or maybe being helped by the Renault Lotus).  Coming to a halt nearly in the center of the track, it was only by luck he wasn't run over by the cars behind.  Two turns later, Bruno Senna rotated his way off-track, missing the nearby graveltrap by scant inches.  By the end of Lap 2, some members of the field were diving into the pits for the full wet tires, others were staying out on the rapidly weakening Inters but keeping their cars on-track by force of will alone it appeared.  As occasionally happens at larger racetracks, the rain was heavier on one part of the circuit (the two straights and the first set of turns) than on other parts (the "back side").  Lettuce Grosjean, perhaps from damage suffered in his little dance with Slappy, spun off into a graveltrap and dug himself in on Lap 4, never to be seen again.  Jenson Button decided, apparently on his own, to come in and change to the Wet tires on Lap 5 while his teammate stayed out in the lead... as the rain began to bucket down even harder, now spreading to cover the entire circuit.  Even as skilled a driver as Hamilton began to suffer with the Inters as the Sepang International Swimming Pool began to retain, not shed, the water.  Meanwhile, Button on the Wets made up ground hand over fist.  Lewis ducked into the pit lane for his Wet tires on Lap 6, and it was going to be close to see if he'd get out ahead of Button.  The difference ended up being around one car's length, but Hamilton just barely stayed in the lead.  In the pit shuffle, the Sauber of Sergio Perez, who stopped at the end of Lap 1, wound up in third place. 

*SAFETY CAR:  At this point on Lap 7, a number of things happened at the same time.  First, Jenson Button radioed to the pit wall (and by extension, to Charlie Whiting, race controller) that "the third sector was a lake."  Second, the Safety Car was sent out.  Third, and perhaps most importantly, multiple bolts of lightning touched down in the vicinity of the rear grandstands, knocking out power to a number of the FIA cameras (and, coincidentally, much of the SkySports feed).  Then came the news that it was going to rain for at least another half-hour, and suddenly there was a lot of talk of the 2009 GP of Malaysia.  Well, the rain wasn't that heavy, but it was a valid concern.  It only took one lap behind Berndt Maylander before the red flag was thrown, and the race ground to a halt on Lap 9, the Herd forming up on the grid. 

*AMAZING: As the cars were put under the collapsible gazebos, deadly creatures they may be, some oddball bits of information began to appear.  For example, starting on the full wet tires had paid off for Narain Kittylitter, who was sitting in 10th place!  Jules Vergne's Toro Rosso was in 7th having never put on Wet tires at all, perhaps the bravest piece of driving we'd ever seen. 

*THUMB-TWIDDLING:  And so we sat under the red flag for nearly an hour.

Drivers would eventually get out of their cars and wander off the grid, presumably to towel off, play parcheesi, talk about the weather, that sort of thing, then eventually wander back, only to be told to go back and play Stratego... or something.  On the grid, the teams would every now and again stick a mechanic in the cockpit and fire up the cars, so as to keep the engines warm.  This is imperative, as when cold, a F1 engine is essentially a solid block of metal, the tolerances are so fine.  To start one, you need to preheat the lubricants, water, and so forth, then feed them in before it'll fire up.  Letting the lump get too cool on the grid means you're out of the race.  Eventually the rain cleared off, the track began to dry a bit, and the field was given five minutes to get ready. 

*HERE WE GO AGAIN:  The field perambulated behind the Mercedes AMG for three laps, then the race began again... but we must acknowledge the jape played by The Varsha, lead member of the Legendary Announce Team.  As the Safety Car pulled away from the field to get clear before the restart, he said "The lights are out on the Safety Car, we'll be back after this commercial break."  As the other two members of the L.A.T. made incoherent noises of outrage, The Varsha merely replied with "Somebody dared me." 

*AND WE'RE OFF: The race resumed, eventually the field came in for Inters around Lap 15 or 16.  Lewis Hamilton's stop was mangled terribly and he rejoined the field in 9th, which would become 3rd as the cars ahead of him stopped for tires.  Then Jenson Button, who had already stopped, got tangled up in the HRT of Kittylitter and lost his front wing.  To be fair, Kittylitter did nothing wrong.  He was under no obligation to move aside, since this was for position.  Button just made a mistake, and paid for it.  His stop was a hopeless blunder, the front nose going on well enough, but the tire change taking forever and the rear jack seem to get hung up.  Button fell from 9th to 20th, and would never factor in the race again. 

*SETTLING IN:  Then a frantic race began to relax a bit, with the Ferrari of HWMNBN in front, followed by Sergio Perez' Sauber and the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton.  Seb Vettel, Nico Rosberg and Kimi Raikkonen followed behind, but were never close to a podium position.  On Lap 31, with everybody still on Inters, HWMNBN led Sergio Perez by nearly eight seconds...

*RATCHETING UP:  ...and then the Malaysian Miracle began.  It was clear at Australia that while the Saubers were gentle on their tires, the Ferraris weren't overly so.  The gap dropped to seven seconds... then 6.5 seconds... on Lap 35, it was just under five seconds.  Then it was clear that HWMNBN must have burned his tires straight off, because by Lap 36, the lead was 3.95 seconds.  Now the concern for both drivers had to be how long the tires would last before completely failing.  HWMNBN, Perez, and Hamilton were all on the Inters they put on some 20 laps previously, and while they may have been babying them, Inters just aren't designed to go that long.

Hamilton's were essentially slicks already, the Ferrari was showing signs that his were dying... only Perez was looking solid.  There was a stop coming... the only question was, would they go with Inters, or would they put on dry tires?  When Daniel Ricciardo put soft slicks on at Lap 39, everybody held their breath... as lightning flashed in the background.  Not only did Ricciardo survive the first try on drys, he turned the fastest lap of the race so far.  Since most of the rest of the field had Inters that looked like Hamilton's, everybody began to put on the racing shoes.

*THE MIRACLE MANIFESTS:  Everybody but the two men up front.  They had opened up such a gap to the McLaren that they could pit, put on new tires and come back on track and still not lose their positions.  A shocking turn of events after the prior week!  On Lap 40, Perez had nearly caught the Ferrari, cutting the lead to under one second.  The Red Team knew something had to be done, and they called their man in for fresh tires.  Shockingly, Sauber left Perez out on-track instead of ghosting the movements of the Ferrari.  Sergio Perez had the race in his hand at this point; if he could push hard enough and fast enough, he might be able to pit and get out again before HWMNBN could get by, taking the lead in the pit rotation.  It was not to be, however, and when the Sauber pitted, he rejoined the race behind the Ferrari... still in second place, but some four seconds behind and dropping rapidly as he tried to get the dry tires up to temperature.  By the time they were there, he was some seven seconds in arrears.  But nothing was going to stop the Mexican, not today.  By Lap 46, the lead was 3.2 seconds and again falling fast.  The stress levels were going through the roof, and even a little comic relief from Seb Vettel couldn't help (see Mooooooo-ooove Of The Race, below).

*MIRACLE MASSACRE: On Lap 49, the lead was .670 seconds and it was clear that there was little that HWMNBN would be able to do to defend the lead, what with Perez being able to use the DRS seven more times.  He'd be able to block, surely, but with the rulebook having been rewritten to prevent weaving, there's only so much that even a driver of HWMNBN's caliber could do to stop a clearly faster car from getting by.  Then the radio to the Sauber driver came alive with a call from his race engineer: "Remember, Sergio, we need this position."  While this was valid, particularly considering what happened to Williams F1 at the last race on the final lap, it seemed an odd time to make such a call.  Your driver is getting ready to stampede past a Ferrari for the lead and, incidentally, Sauber's first victory since 2008 and their second in 20 years of racing, and you're telling him to be careful?  Immediately the LAT wondered if the call was made because they run Ferrari engines.  While all three poo-poohed the idea, the thought remains... particularly because on Lap 50, mere moments after the call was made, Perez blew Turn 14 and ran wide, handing HWMNBN a full five seconds cushion.  At this point, the official F1U! notebook is filled with profanities and incoherent screamings. 

*THE END:  Sergio Perez wasn't done.  He returned to his prior quickness, taking a second per lap off the Ferrari, but he ran out of laps.  He finished second, only 2.26 seconds behind the Ferrari of HWMNBN.  Lewis Hamilton finished third, nearly 13 seconds behind the Sauber.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  HWMNBN has a lousy Ferrari underneath him, but even a bad Ferrari is usually better than the rest of the field, and he's now won 28 times in F1.  Sergio Perez has started fewer races than the Spaniard has won, and nearly took this victory away from him in an underfunded Sauber.  If Gandalf Kobayashi hadn't've retired his car from the points just before the radio call for Perez to be careful, would he have won?  We'll never know.  What we do know is that Perez had the bigger challenge ahead of him, and nearly shocked the world.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  None.  The top eight positions were held by eight different teams.  If pressed, we suppose we'd have to give it to Ferrari.  They won the race after all, right?  But we'd prefer to go with none.

*MOVE OF THE RACE: On Lap 30, Gandalf Kobayashi was all over the back of seven-time World Champion Slappy Schumacher.  The Mercedes had lost whatever pace it had shown back in Quals, while the Sauber was proving to be rather spritely on the day.  Nevertheless, just the fact that Slappy was involved meant that any passing attempt would be difficult.

Out of Turn 4, Gandalf got better grip out of the exit of the turn and was therefore able to pile on the power faster than Slappy.

Through the entrance of Turn 5, the two were side-by-side, with Gandalf on the outside of the turn, but on the inside of the upcoming Turn 6.  The Sauber kept the power on, and though the track was dryer than it had been earlier, it was hardly dry.  Both drivers managed to keep control, and Kobayashi kept Shadowfax right alongside the Silver Arrow all the way through the long turn.

As Five turned to Six, Slappy wisely backed out of the throttle and let the youthful Japanese driver by.  A solid pass in questionable conditions, and the best one of the day.

*MOOOOOOO-OOOVE OF THE RACE: On Lap 46, Seb Vettel was in 5th place and solidly in the points.  As he blew past the lapped HRT of Narain Kittylitter, he braked hard and cut across the nose of the Indian driver.  Now, the new tire compounds brought by Pirelli are called "hard", "medium" and so forth, but to be honest, that's only in comparison to each other.  You can easily push a finger deeply into the "hard" tires.  Now, when they're rotating fast enough to make a car go 140mph and you run them over another car's carbon fiber front wing, what do you think happens?

By the time Vettel made it back to the pits and returned to the track, he had dropped to 12th, and the damage from the flailing tire carcass would eventually cause him to drop out on the final lap.  No points and while Kittylitter got penalized for the incident, Sebby should have known better than to have cut it that fine.  Here's your Mooooooooo-ooove, World Champ!



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2012 Malaysian GP F1U! Is Coming...'s just taking forever.  So while you wait, here's this:


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March 24, 2012

My So-Called Fantasy Baseball Life

I've made no secret about my love of baseball on this here blog, and why should I?  It's not like it isn't the best sport ever created.  However, there have been perishingly few references to my participation in the world of fantasy baseball... and for good reason.  It's been documented that the only thing people hate hearing about more than someone's fantasy sports team is hearing about their colonoscopies.  Well, I slept through my colonoscopy, so instead, I'm going to talk about the thing that's brought me joy, frustration and deep deep hurting for the past 25 years, my fantasy baseball team.

I actually own a Hanshin Tigers cap and ballpoint pen.  And a receipt for OMG HOW MUCH YEN???
For those who don't know what fantasy baseball is, allow me a short explanation...


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F1 Quals: Malaysia 2012

It was hot, sticky, and a bit cloudy when the challengers took to the track for Qualifying, but teams have to look ahead to the race as well.  Will the potential for lousy weather in the race make a difference in setups?  Let's take a look at the provisional grid for the 2012 Grand Prix of Malaysia:

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:37.813 1:37.106 1:36.219
2 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:37.575 1:36.928 1:36.368
3 Slappy Schumacher Mercedes 1:37.517 1:37.017 1:36.391
4 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:37.172 1:37.375 1:36.461
5 Mumbles Räikkönen Renault Lotus 1:37.961 1:36.715 1:36.461
6 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:38.102 1:37.419 1:36.634
7 Lettuce Grosjean Renault Lotus 1:38.058 1:37.338 1:36.658
8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:37.696 1:36.996 1:36.664
9 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:38.151 1:37.379 1:37.566
10 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1:37.933 1:37.477 1:37.698
11 Rector Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:37.789 1:37.589
12 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:38.381 1:37.731
13 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1:38.437 1:37.841
14 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:38.325 1:37.877
15 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:38.419 1:37.883
16 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:38.303 1:37.890
17 Gandalf Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:38.372 1:38.069
18 Jules Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:39.077

19 Heikki Kovalaineninnie Lotus Caterham 1:39.306

20 The Red Menace
Lotus Caterham 1:39.567

21 Tim O'Glockenspiel Marussia-Cosworth 1:40.903

22 Charles ToothPic Marussia-Cosworth 1:41.250

23 Pete Rose
HRT-Cosworth 1:42.914

24 Narain Kittylitter HRT-Cosworth 1:43.655

Q1 107% Time

Another McLaren one-two, another great performance from Renault Lotus, and another headscratcher from Red Bull.  While 4th and 6th are hardly bad positions to be in, and Vettel will be starting on the hard tires, for a team used to effortlessly claiming pole whenever they felt like it, it has to be the same as not even making it out of Q1.

Speaking of not making it out of Q1, the Red Cars very nearly met that fate today.  Felipe Massa burned soft tires in both Q1 and Q2, and HWMNBN had to use his softs in all three... and the best he could do was 9th.  He also had a balky KERS unit, from all reports.  He said it wouldn't have made a difference as far as position goes, but it would have closed the nearly 1 second gap to 8th.

The best news of the day, though, was that both HRTs made it into the race, though Kittylitter was having overheating issues and probably won't make it far on Sunday... unless it rains, in which case all bets are off.

Speaking of rain, if anybody is set up for a wet track tomorrow, they're being very subtle about it.  I suppose it's possible that the Red Cars and the Saubers have a rain setup; their times were consistent across the board in all three Quals sessions, while the people above them got faster as time went on.  Something tells me that no, they aren't, they're just legitimately slow in comparison.

Two drivers received five-grid-spot penalties.  Mumbles had a compromised gearbox after Australia and had a new one put in, and Kovaleinninnie got his penalty for passing behind the safety car last week.  So the HRTs won't be last on the grid, and Kimchee will be 10th. 

See you Sunday for the F1U!

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March 23, 2012

F1 Malaysia Practice 3 Liveblogging!

(PRE-SESSION)  As I've completely given up on my fantasy baseball team being anything more than suck and fail this year, I'm going to do something new: liveblog a third practice session!  Unlike Friday Practice sessions, P3 is only 60 minutes long, and it's often a coinflip as to what you're gonna see.  Sometimes it's everybody on track going hell-bent for leather, but others nobody is even thinking about going out.  Let's see what the weather is doing... hm.  Clouds over the track, 79° and humid, but no rain.  50% chance of thunderstorms though.  Quals will be at 3am Pond Central time, so there's plenty of time for the weather to change between now and then...

(ALMOST GONE GREEN) I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Microsoft Security Essentials for allowing me to be able to do this sort of thing.  My previous antivirii programs made blogging a nightmare, particularly uploading pictures.  They got in the way constantly.  MSE on the other hand is barely noticeable.  Good job, Microsoft!

(902pm)  Hmm... the stream was supposed to have started two minutes ago.

(905pm)  Oh.  It appears that somewhere along the way, I wrote down the wrong start time for P3.  It actually begins at Midnight, not at 9pm.  Well.  Gosh.  Um... so, anybody for Parcheezi?

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March 22, 2012

F1 Malaysia Practice 1 Liveblogging!

(PRE-SESSION) So here we are again!  I didn't expect that I'd have the chance to do this, but I've pretty much given up on my fantasy baseball league preparation.  There's no way I'll be able to do enough research in two nights, so instead I will do F1 to you.  A quick check of the weather sites points out that it's not raining in Kuala Lumpur, so we should have a useful practice session ahead.  To watch along with this liveblog, point yourself to SPEED's F1 stream.  As in the past liveblogging sessions, the 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 happyfunball.    If happyfunball begins to smoke, seek shelter and cover head.  Happyfunball may suddenly accelerate to dangerous speeds.  Accept no substitutes!

(1:30:00) ...and we're green!

(1:28:10)  Back a few years ago, Lotus Caterham said that they'd be based entirely in Malaysia.  Their factory was to be there, the cars would be built there, the whole lot.  Wonder what happened to that plan?

(1:25:40)  Interestingly enough, everybody is making for the track to turn a few laps... including the heavy-hitters.  I've seen McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes, Williams, FIndia, all on the circuit already, pretty much anybody but Red Bull and Toro Rosso.  Usually the big boys wait a bit before they go out.  Even stranger, Slappy Schumacher was perambulating around the course with his rainlight flashing... do they know something we don't?

(1:22:30) Speak of the debbil, here's a Toro Rosso doing a lap, and Sebby Vettel getting ready to go out.

(1:20:15) Narain Kittylitter is getting ready to try and get a few laps in for HRT before the car falls apart again.  Optimistic, isn't he?

(1:16:50)  I'm not saying that Paul di Resta is having problems with his Force India, but he was just passed by the Marussia of Tim O'Glockenspiel.  I'm also noticing that he's not activating his DRS at all.  And his rain light is flashing. 

(1:13:34)  It's not raining, but from the look of the skies, it will be soon enough.  And Kittylitter takes the field!

(1:11:11)  Oof.  To whit:

For those unschooled in the fine art of FIA Graphics Packages, let me translate.  In the lower left, you see two times: the current fastest lap time at that point of the lap (in this case, 1:01.348) in red, then Kittylitter's time at that same point.  The HRT was over four seconds slower.  I don't care that it was an installation lap, the chassis just looked slow.

(1:05:10) Felipe Massa's father was just shown on camera.  He still looks like Joe Torre.

(1:03:06) Lettuce Grosjean is having problems with his Renault Lotus.  How could I tell?

Please note the dial on the left-hand side of the screen.  It shows that the car is going 101 kph (approx 60mph) in 7th gear, at around 6000rpm.  Usually you'd be ~18000rpm and 180mph in 7th gear.  That's how I could tell.

(1:03:00) Well, that and his radio call to the pits: "There's something wrong with the car."

(56:19)  I wonder how it feels to be the pilot of the camera helicopter at a F1 race.  You get yourself all lined up, you put on max power as the F1 car comes off the hairpin... and it leaves you behind like you were standing still.  Must be kinda demoralizing.

(52:40) Looks like Vettel, Hamilton and Slappy are playing a game of "who's got the bigger one."  One sets fast lap, then one of the others come along and kick it over. 

(51:07)  Case in point: Hamilton just kicked Vettel in the shins, taking fast lap honors by a half-second, despite smoking his tires like they had been coated in gasoline.

(49:50) Paul di Resta's thoughts: "Note to self: F1 cars drift very very poorly"  Force India pit wall's thoughts: "AIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!"

(47:45)  Still no zeppelin sighting.  I fear the worst.

(46:49)  If you had 43 minutes, 11 seconds in the HRT Breakdown Time pool, please claim your winnings at the front desk.

No word on what caused it yet, but I think "Being a HRT" is cause enough.

(42:50) @GreyDuck, that's what the practice sessions are for, to get the kinks out.  Of course, sometimes that isn't entirely possible *coughHRTcough*.

(40:40) The FIA reports "no rain for the rest of the session."  Teams up and down the pit lane immediately begin reaching for their umbrellas.

(37:45)  I wonder if Pete Rose is regretting his decision to purchase a drive with HRT today.  His mechanic: "We can lower the ride height, that should help with the grip levels.  Does it feel like there's no rear grip at all?"  Rose: "You can put a mechanic on the back, too."  At least that's what it sounded like he said.  Snark, thy name is Pedro de la Rosa.

(34:44) HWMNBN just turned in the 15th fastest lap of the day, only 1.5 seconds off the fast lap time.  Which is better than his previous lap, some 10 seconds slower.

(33:20)  Now I'm curious why that press photographer had a "no dogs" sticker on his very long camera lens.

(31:50) Felipe Massa has elected a Pope.

Actually, that's been happening a lot today, and not just to lesser drivers.  Is it just because it's first practice?  Or is there some odd conflict betwixt the tires and the Malaysian asphalt?  Probably the former.

(27:35) Sergio Perez is standing in the garage, looking like he's about to die of heatstroke.  To be fair, Malaysia's weather is pretty miserable right now: 85 and ridiculously humid... and driving a F1 car isn't exactly the least fairly strenuous activity in the world.

(24:48) Why is it that every time Vitaly Petrov takes to the track, I hear the song "I'm a danger to myself and others" in my head?

(20:20) Pete Rose just successfully completed a lap without his HRT bursting into flame, shedding the majority of its bodywork, ingesting wildlife, or crashing headlong into the Pacific Ocean.  WIN!

(17:14) Lettuce Grosjean is serving notice that either he's pretty darn good or the Renault Lotus is pretty darn good... or both.  He's got the 5th fastest lap.  Considering what he was doing the last time we saw him in F1, I'm agog.

(15:10)  Ladies and Gentlemen, with Sharle ToothPic completing his first run of the day, we have now had all 24 cars turn timed laps.  Tooth's time was 10.58 seconds slower than the fast lap, and 24th.  Could we have a 20-car field this time around?

(11:39) I finished the novel Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter earlier tonight.  Pretty okay, to be honest.  I can't believe the forthcoming movie is going to be anything better than awful, though.  Why no, there isn't much going on at the Sepang International Circuit, why do you ask?

(6:40) Mumbles will have to learn that he's no longer a Finnish rally car driver, otherwise he'll find that his F1 car isn't as sturdy as those vehicles very quickly.

(0:00) Not with a bang, but a whimper.

(POST-SESSION) Mark Webber is on a flyer, but he's some three seconds off the pace.  Red Bull must be doing some fuel runs or tire wear experiments with him this session.  He's ended up 6th, while Hamilton's fast lap held up.

So what did we learn from this?  Nothing except for very broad strokes: McLaren good, HRT bad, that sort of stuff.  I'll see you on Saturday for Quals unless something important occurs during P2. Thanks for reading along!

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March 20, 2012

The F1U! Nicknames

Earlier tonight, I was having dinner with Ph.Duck and his new bride (for whom a duckish appellation has yet to be assigned), and while we waited for the food to be brought to the table by the fine staff of ImperialMandarinPalaceGardens (try the orange chicken, yum yum!) we discussed Formula 1.  This conversation bored the newbie at the table to tears, but Ph.Duck and I gabbed away semi-obliviously.  As I blathered on, after a while I noticed that he had a strange look on his face. 

Kinda like that, yeah.
After inquiring politely if he had gas, he explained that he didn't understand one of the nicknames I had just used.  As I tried to define just why that particular nickname was stuck on that particular driver, I realized that it's been a long time since I've defined the nicknames used in the F1 Update! features here on The Pond.  So let's get cracking!

Vitaly "The Red Menace" Petrov: he's Russian and when he first got to F1 it was never a question of IF he'd crash, but WHEN... and how many others he'd take out with him.  Believe me folks, that's about as deep as most of these get.

Michael "Slappy" Schumacher: During the 2005 Belgian Grand Prix, F1U! favorite Takuma "Suicide" Sato made one of his patented close-your-eyes-and-pray attempts at a pass.  As was often the case, it didn't come off.  As was also often the case, he collected another driver in the process.  This time around, it was seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, who was not exactly what you would call pleased.  He got out of the wreckage of his Ferrari, stalked over to Sato (who was still sitting in his Honda), leaned over, said some words, then... slapped the young Japanese driver across the helmet.  And a nickname was born.  For a short time, he was also called "Parky", due to an incident at the 2006 Monaco Grand Prix, where he (ahem) accidentally blew a turn (on the narrowest part of the track) and stalled his car.  Coincidentally, this was during the last moments of Quals, he was on pole, but HWMNBN (see below) was coming up fast.  Stalled car = yellow flag = nobody could outqualify Schumacher.

HWMNBN: Standing for "He Who Must Not Be Named," this nickname belongs to the Spaniard who currently drives for Ferrari.  We here at F1U! recognize his immense talent and ability.  We also realize that he's quite possibly the largest tw*twaffle on the grid, if not all of motorsports.  It all started during his year with McLaren in 2007, when Lewis Hamilton was a rookie... and was doing a pretty good job of making HWMNBN look like an amateur.  So HWMNBN went to the head of McLaren and whined and moaned and demanded that he be named the #1 Driver for the team, and that Hamilton should bow and scrape to him.  This was rejected.  Then came the incident at Hungary.  Then came Stepneygate, HWMNBN's role in which cost the team roughly $100 million.  Then came Crashgate with Renault.  Then there was the Ferrari Fiasco at the German Grand Prix, where Felipe Massa was ordered to let him by ("(HWMNBN) is ...faster than you.  Do you understand this message?")  All of this, despite his immense skill behind the wheel.  Damn shame he's such an unpleasant human being.

Romain "Lettuce" GrosjeanRomaine is a type of lettuce.  Romain is only one letter different.  And that's how nicknames are born.

Jerome "Custard" D'Ambrosio:  Though he's currently the test driver for Renault Lotus, we here at F1U! stole this nickname directly from the team he drove for in 2011, Virgin.  It seems that there's a brand of custard in Britain called "Ambrosia"... and a nickname was born.

Charles "Tooth" Pic: It's pronounced "Sharles Peek."  He's French.  If he ever gets good, we'll take to calling him "The Hammer", in a nod to Charles Martel.  We probably won't wind up calling him that.  As to why he's called "Tooth"?  C'mon, do we really need to explain it?

Kamui "Gandalf" Kobayashi:  One race can make you in this business.  For Japanese rookie Kamui Kobayashi, that race was the 2010 European Grand Prix at Valencia.  For 39 laps he kept three faster, immensely more experienced, drivers behind him... as his tires became more and more lousy.  The image of him in the cockpit, screaming "You shall not pass!" leaped to mind immediately.  Oh, just read the link... it's funnier there. 

Jean-Eric "Jules" Vergne: Literary allusions FTW!

Timo "Tim O'Glockenspiel" Glock:  THREE different nicknames in one!  Originally, he was Timo Glock, son of famed weaponsmaker Mr Colt.  Then came "Glockenspiel," because it's obvious and we here at F1U! embrace the easy whenever possible.  Then came the Top Gear episode where the guys went to Monaco on race weekend and got to drive the track... okay, yes, it was in hatchbacks, but still, how cool is that?  Anyway, Hamster and Captain Slow spoke to a very nice F1 driver named "Tim O'Glock."  Combine the two, and voila.

Pastor "XXXX" Maldonado: Not so much of a nickname as a running gag.  For most, if not all, of last year, in the interest of religious equality and the desire for an all-inclusive blog, I changed the name "Pastor".  One week it may have been "Imam," the next "Rabbi," then "Predicant", then "Bishop," then... every session it changed to a different religious title.  Nobody mentioned it.  We were bummed.

"Grizzly" Nick Heidfeld: Many years ago, Nick Heidfeld was clean shaven.  Then he grew a beard.  It was ugly.  The end.

Heikki Kovalainen: He's usually called "Kovalinninninnie" here on F1U!  Do you have any idea how hard it is to spell "Kovalainen"?  We had to look it up.  If we're lucky, we even got it right.

Narain "Kittylitter" Karthekeyan: Almost as hard to spell as Kovalainen.  Fortunately, the first Indian driver in F1 history tended to put his car in the graveltraps with startling regularity back in the day.  Has actually been fairly successful in every format he's driven in... except F1.

Kimi "Mumbles" Raikkonen: It is not uncommon for foreign speakers of English to have problems with inflection, putting emphasis on the wrong syllables of a word, that sort of thing.  Kimi ignores such things by not putting any emphasis on any word at any time.

Zsolt Baumgartner: That's his real name.  Seriously.

I'm sure I'm missing a good gazillion others, but that should be enough to get people up to speed for the season... if not, let us know so we can point and laugh at you! clarify matters.

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March 19, 2012

F1 On SPEED!: Malaysia 2012

After a long long offseason, we find ourselves blessed with back-to-back races!  After the... shall we say eccentric Melbourne circuit, the F1 Circus packs up the tents and takes an eight-hour flight to Kuala Lumpur, home of the Sepang International Circuit and the Grand Prix of Malaysia.  Let's take a look at the track map:

It takes not much of a look to realize that it's our first Hermann Tilke design of the season.  The two loooooonnnng straightaways are clever, I suppose, but that's about the only nice bit around the circuit... though under duress I will admit to a fondness of the Turn 1/2 complex, what with its downhill, off-camber profile and all.  There's something sickly amusing about seeing cars worth untold millions of dollars descending and twisting with one tire off the ground, which has got to do bad things to a car's mechanical grip.

Which is important to have when the aerodynamics are compromised, which appears to be on tap for this race.  And I use "tap" the way you would with a sink... yep, we're scheduled for rain for all three days.  And not just "rain", but "big sloppy buckets o' rain with enough lightning to impress Pink Floyd's lighting designer."  And rain makes EVERY race better!  Which would be nice, because the last two have been, to be blunt, dogs, and the best part of the 2009 race was that it was red-flagged and never resumed.

Fortunately for us, the good juruhebah of the Legendary Announce Team will have their Mae Wests handy as they bring us their usual spiffy coverage of all the action.  Here's the lineup:

Thursday 9p - 1030p, P1 streaming
Friday 1a - 240a, P2 live
           9p - 10p, P3 streaming
Saturday 3a - 430a, Quals plausibly live
Sunday 230a - 5a, Grand Prix of Malaysia live

As is usual for this time of year, this weekend is my fantasy baseball league's annual player auction, which is scheduled for Saturday morning.  The Quals report will be delayed until after that, the Practice report may never occur as I do research, and even the F1U! is in danger of being shuffled around as I may have something going on that day as well.  Depending on what The Librarian and I are doing, I might do a liveblog of P1.

I've been in this particular fantasy baseball league since 1987... yes, there are upperclassmen at Duck U that are younger than my fantasy team. As much as I love F1, baseball is life. 

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March 18, 2012

F1 Update!: Australia 2012

In the long history of Formula 1, only 32 men are able to say that they were World Driver Champion.  Six of those champions took to the grid under sunny skies at Melbourne, over one quarter of the number of drivers in the contest.  But would we see any change from last year's Red Bull race dominance?  Or would there be a bright new day ahead?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2012 Grand Prix of Australia!
*LIGHTS OUT:  Once the mandatory flag-carrier flyby took place, and at an altitude that shows that Qantas has more sense than Etihad Airways, all attention was focused on those five little lights that would signal not only the start of the race, but the start of the longest season in F1 history.  Right away, it became obvious that some things will never change: we had a Mark Webber Lousy Start© that saw him drop all the way to the mid-field.  Up at the front, Jenson Button outdragged his pole-sitting teammate Lewis Hamilton into the first turn, and Lettuce Grosjean winds up getting shuffled back to sixth.  Into the first turn, it looked for a moment that the Thundering Herd would get through in one piece, until Bruno Senna's Williams got tipped into a spin... and worse.

Surprisingly, neither Daniel Ricciardo's Toro Rosso nor Senna's car suffered any major damage in this incident, and both were able to continue after stopping for a new nose (Ricciardo) and new tires (Senna).  On Lap 2, the races of both Nico Hulkenberg and Lettuce come to an end in separate incidents.

*BREATHE DEEP:  Up at the front of the field, we were seeing a repeat of 2011, just with a different name at the top.  Jenson Button, taking advantage of the lack of traffic in front of him, simply began to run away from the rest of the pack.  It wasn't to the same degree as Seb Vettel's 2011 dominance, but by Lap 7 the McLaren driver had a four second lead on his teammate, and nine seconds on the Mercedes of Slappy Schumacher.  Meanwhile, Vettel was finding that the RB8's handling was nothing more than ordinary, running off the grass and bringing him into a short scrum with Nico Rosberg and Ferrari's HWMNBN.  Slappy, on the other hand, discovered that his Silver Arrow was... fragile.  He drove through a gravel trap on Lap 11... and his gearbox stopped working.  This is hardly uncommon; the transmissions of a F1 car are more finely crafted than any high-end watch.  While they're built to stand up to the stresses of running during a normal race, the odd shock can sometimes cause them to either try to chose two gears at once (bad) or basically forget how to function at all (also bad).  While he got back to the pits, the seven-time Champion's day was finished.  More importantly, Seb Vettel moved into third and immediately began tracking down Lewis Hamilton.

*FIRST PITS:  As the cars began to filter into pit lane for the first tire changes of the season, it became clear that the teams had put a lot of practice into their mechanical ballet.  If anything, the tire changes are even faster than in 2011.  For example, the F1U! official notebook of the race records that Felipe Massa came in on Lap 12, and as the crew reached for a pen and began writing, Ferrari changed his tires and got him going again.  We missed his stop entirely.  There are rumors that the Mercedes team have been able to change a car's tires in less than two seconds in practice.  Astounding.  By the time the pit rotations were done, Jenson Button had solidified his lead massively, opening an 11 second gap to his teammate.  His teammate, however, only had one second in hand over the reigning Driver's Champion, and it didn't look like Vettel was going to be going away anytime soon.

*HARD LUCK SAFETY CAR:  That's how it stayed until the next round of pitstops approached around Lap 34.  On Lap 36, McLaren gambled on their mechanics, bringing both their men in for their tire change at the same time.  The gamble seemed to work; as Button pulled out of the pit box, Hamilton, some 10 seconds behind, pulled in.  What the team didn't count on was the Lotus Caterham of The Red Menace coming to a halt on the front straight just past the start/finish line.  For The Menace, this turned out to be a stroke of good fortune, as reportedly his steering column completely failed and he had a nice empty stretch of road to bring his car to a stop with.  Almost immediately, the yellow flag was thrown, and moments later the Safety Car rolled out.  Taking advantage of this, Red Bull brought in Vettel, who had taken the lead while the McLarens were pitting.  When he rejoined the field, he was in second place, having jumped Hamilton in the chaos.  After the race, neither Vettel or Hamilton were willing to say what exactly would have happened if the Safety Car hadn't come out, if Vettel would have caught the McLaren, or having caught it, passed it.  In any case, when the Safety Car came in on Lap 42, the lineup was Button, Vettel, Hamilton, Webber and HWMNBN, who was hanging on grimly in his recalcitrant Ferrari.

*RESTART HO!:  If there's one thing we learned in 2011, it's that there was nobody better during restarts than Seb Vettel.  When Berndt Maylander shut off the lights on the Mercedes SLS, Vettel got a wonderful jump, making it impossible for Lewis Hamilton, who is possibly the worst restarter in the world, to make any threatening move.  However, Jenson Button's restart wasn't shabby, and he immediately began to open up a gap on the Red Bull.  In one lap, he opened up a 2.5 second lead, and it looked like a win was locked up... as long as nothing went wrong.

*SPOKE TOO SOON:  On Lap 48, Felipe Massa and Bruno Senna were dicing for position, and by dicing, we mean "attempting to shiv each other."  When both dodged by Daniel Ricciardo, Senna tried to go around the outside of the Ferrari... who kept drifting farther and farther outside.  The inevitable inevitably occurred.

The two cars managed to get locked into each other for a good two hundred yards, maybe.  Massa's Ferrari, a massive circular scrape gouged into his right sidepod, retired shortly after making it to the pit lane.  Senna's Williams, however, has shown that it is made of sterner stuff than pretty much any car on the grid, and at least half the cars on the road today.  First it got bounced into the air on Lap 1, now this, and it still continued on.  The F1U! team held it's collective breath, waiting for a Safety Car to be called out for debris, which would again throw the last few laps into a cocked hat.  It never happened.

*FINALLY: On Lap 55 of 58, it started to look like we'd have a rather exciting finish.  Both Red Bulls were closing in on both McLarens: Vettel on Button, Webber on Hamilton.  Button's lead over Vettel had dropped to two seconds, and Webber was in DRS range of Hamilton.  It later came out that both of the Glare With Wheels were short on fuel, though at this point the team told Button that he was good to finish the race.  By Lap 56, he had tacked another second onto his lead.  Hamilton and Webber, on the other hand, stayed close all the way to the end, just unable to get close enough to make the DRS advantage work.  In the end, it was Button, Vettel, Hamilton, Webber and HWMNBN.  Alas, The Williams That Wouldn't Die retired on Lap 56, presumably of exhaustion.

The mad scramble that arose for the final three points-paying positions between four cars was just icing on the cake of a wonderful first race of the season.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  One would think that Jenson Button would win this with his clear victory today.  One would be wrong.  The Ferrari F2012 is an ill-tempered beast.  It's not fast enough nor is it nimble enough.  It has no grip.  It chews through its tires in a ridiculously short amount of time.  There's no way it should be able to contend for anything other than midpack honors.  But there sits HWMNBN in 5th, a good 15 seconds ahead of his nearest competitor.  All day, he kept his Lame Horse in the mix where a poorly-turned wheel or unforseen technical glitch or two would have put him on the podium.  Gotta respect that, particularly when his teammate could never even get into the top 10 all race.

*TEAM OF THE RACE: McLaren.  In preseason testing, they looked the class of the field.  In the first race of the season, they proved it.  Only an unlucky break with the safety car cost them a 1-2 finish.  While they don't seem to be as dominant as Red Bull were last year, they do indeed appear to be the best... but it's close enough that it should prove to be an exciting dominance.

*MOVE OF THE RACE: On Lap 25, Gandalf Kobayashi was busy being a thorn in the side of HWMNBN.  He was just fast enough to threaten, but maybe not quite fast enough to pass, the Ferrari.  Around halfway through the lap, he made a try on the outside to the outside of a turn, heedless of the lurking Renault Lotus of Mumbles Raikkonen behind.

This attempt failed when HWMNBN pushed him far outside, forcing Gandalf to either brake or end up in the kittylitter.  He touched the brakes.

His momentary loss of headway gave former World Champion Raikkonen all the impetus he needed.  He lunged for the opening left to the right of the Sauber and kept the power on.

Even though he could have been forced outside by Gandalf, much like what happened with the Ferrari, the difference was that Mumbles had the racing line.  An opportunistic move from a driver called "Iceman" by his peers for the cold-blooded way he drives... welcome back, and here's your MotR! 

*MOOOOOO-OOOVE OF THE RACE: On the final lap of the race, Pastor Maldonado had a chance to take 5th away from HWMNBN.  The two had been fighting madly, with the superior driving skills of the Ferrari driver looking like they would be enough to keep the Venezuelan behind.  The Williams driver looked to be getting ready for one last desperate lunge, though, when he got a little too much of the outside of a turn.  The result of this unforced error?

A hard head-first impact with the barriers and a throwing away of the best finish for a Williams in three years.  While we can't fault him for trying, we can hand Pastor Maldodo a Moo.  Good jorb!



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March 17, 2012

St Patrick's Day 2012

Green!  Green everywhere!

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F1 Quals: Australia 2012

September 13th, 2009.  In most ways, it was just another day in just another year, no big deal.  Except that day was the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.  Lewis Hamilton was on pole with Adrian Sutil next to him, odd enough on its own as that was the last time a Force India has gotten so high on the grid.  It was also the last time we had a F1 race start without a Red Bull qualifying on the front row.  The three practice sessions we've had so far has made the RB8 look... mortal.  But that's practice; now is the time for Quals, when the gloves really come off and the haymakers begin to be thrown.  Let's take a look at the provisional grid for the 2012 Grand Prix of Australia:

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:26.800 1:25.626 1:24.922
2 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:26.832 1:25.663 1:25.074
3 Lettuce Grosjean Renault Lotus
1:26.498 1:25.845 1:25.302
4 Slappy Schumacher Mercedes 1:26.586 1:25.571 1:25.336
5 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:27.117 1:26.297 1:25.651
6 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:26.773 1:25.982 1:25.668
7 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:26.763 1:25.469 1:25.686
8 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:26.803 1:26.206 1:25.908
9 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:27.464 1:26.314 1:26.451
10 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:27.024 1:26.319 No time
11 Jules Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:26.493 1:26.429
12 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:26.688 1:26.494
13 Gandalf Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:26.182 1:26.590
14 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1:27.004 1:26.663
15 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:27.469 1:27.086
16 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:27.633 1:27.497
17 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1:26.596 No time

18 Mumbles Räikkönen Renault Lotus 1:27.758

19 Heikki Kovalaineninnie Lotus Caterham

20 The Red Menace
Lotus Caterham

21 Tim O'Glockenspiel Marussia-Cosworth 1:30.923

22 Charles ToothPic Marussia-Cosworth 1:31.670

DNQ Pete Rose
HRT-Cosworth 1:33.495

DNQ Narain Kittylitter HRT-Cosworth 1:33.643

Q1 107% Time

Oh, the difference a few months and one change to the technical regulations make.  The RB8 is no RB7, that much is clear.  What also appears to be clear is that no car leaned more heavily on the now-banned blown diffuser technology than that same RB7.  Last year, it was common to see Seb Vettel on pole, and his teammate Mark Webber right alongside.  Things have... changed.  They've locked out the third row, which is hardly bad... it's just not what the Red Bullies have come to be used to.

But some things don't change, either.  McLaren now perches on the front row, with Hamilton the only driver to get into the 1:24s.  The session's biggest surprise is the man that sits third on the grid, Lotus's Lettuce Grosjean.  The last time we saw him, he was stinkin' up the place in a Renault (now Lotus) in 2009.  He won GP2 last year, so it's safe to say that he's gotten better... and so, it appears, has the car, at least potentially.  Lettuce lines up next to Slappy Schumacher, who for most of the session held my bowels in an icy grip.  The Silver Arrows of Mercedes are showing every sign of being legit competitors this season, and through Q1 and Q2 they were hanging out in the top few slots.  It didn't come together for them in Q3 though, not that fourth is bad.  I'm sure Rosberg is less than thrilled with his seventh.  Eighth, ninth and tenth are held by a Williams(!), a Force India and a Toro Rosso, all of which is wonderful news that indicates a potential shakeup in the midpack.

The sharper-eyed of my readers may have noticed a lack of Ferrari so far in this Qualifying report.  That's because the F2012 is proving to be a twitchy, snarling, uncooperative beast of a chassis with all the manners of a starving pitbull presented with a table full of porterhouses.  Felipe Massa had to get onto soft tires just to make it out of Q1, and couldn't do any better than 16th and elimination in Q2.  HWMNBN, on the other hand, had set a halfway acceptable lap in Q2 before he tried to apply the brakes with his left-side tires on the grass.  The result was a snap spin and a sudden burial in the kittylitter.  Despite this, his time was very nearly good enough to get him through to Q3, only being bumped to 12th in the final few seconds.

The other man missing from the report so far is Mumbles Raikkonen.  In his first race back in F1, he could only manage a distant 18th.  Still, the blame is not his alone.  The team kept him on the hard tires for the entirety of Q1 while everybody around him had gone to the softs.  Then, on his final flying lap, which was looking like it'd be good enough to get him into Q2, he made a mistake that put his entire car over the curb and required some quick steering action to keep him out of the wall and allow the Renault Lotus mechanics to keep their dinner reservations.  On the other hand, he's probably the only driver on the grid with a full allotment of unused soft tires.  We know the car can be quick (see Grosjean, Lettuce).  We also know that nobody on the grid right now is as cold-blooded as Mumbles.  Let's see if the combination of fast car, driving skill, and an extra set of soft tires will bring us another of his patented 18th-to-3rd races tomorrow.

Now for the bad stuff.  For the second year in a row, both HRTs failed to meet the 107% qualifying requirement, and now have to plead their case to the stewards to be allowed to race.  This is unlikely to be granted as they've not even come close to being on race pace this weekend.  Unsurprising, really, considering the offseason they've had.  When Colin Kolles left the team, it turns out he not only took his designs with him, he also took all the machinery used to make a F1 car with him as well.  Seeing that he owned it all, that's only correct, but it did leave HRT in something of a bind.  Not only did they have to design a car from scratch, but then they ALSO had to get the equipment needed to actually manufacture the parts for the chassis.  No wonder they failed their crash tests.  P1 was the first time they had actually gotten the chance to run the car!

Also, Kittylitter, Daniel Ricciardo and Pete Rose are all under investigation for impeding the progress of other drivers in Q1, and rumors up and down the pitlane are saying that Ferrari and Renault Lotus are going to protest the Mercedes "f-duct" rear wing.  More on those stories if they happen.

We've got a good one shaping up here, folks... See you post-race for F1Update!

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March 15, 2012

F1 Australia Practice 1 Liveblog!

(PRE-SESSION) Well, here we go, the season starts in earnest!  If you want to watch what I'm talking about tonight as it goes down, just follow this link.  It all should start at 830p Central Pond Time.  I say "should" because there were technical difficulties the last time I tried this.  There's a threat of rain during the Friday sessions down under, which is exactly what we don't want.  Rain is fun during Quals and the race itself, but during first practice?  It'll just make the teams keep their cars in the garage... because if you think about it, all you'll learn from running in the rain is how many pieces you can break your car into when you... say it with me... stick it in the wall, upside down and on fire.  As with the past liveblogging events, I'll be using the time remaining in the session as a reference.  If you see 1:15:00, that means there's 75 minutes left in the 90 minute session.  So settle into your seat, get the vegemite and koalaburgers handy, and let's get ready for the F1 season.

(1:30:00) Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a F1 season!  And the track is damp!

(1:25:00) Ferrari is first out on the circuit.

(1:23:00) We have our first off of the season!

Nico Rosberg, take your prize!

(1:19:36)  Slappy is on the course, but he's tiptoeing around the track.  Of course, that makes sense... wet surface, new car, yadda yadda.  If there's one person here, though, that should know this place, it's him.

(1:17:20) Melbourne goes silent.  This might be a good time to mention that we've got an US person back driving in the sport, at least theoretically.  American Alexander Rossi has signed with Lotus Caterham to be their third driver.  It's bad sport of me to hope that The Red Menace slips on some ice and breaks his leg, I know, but...

(1:14:34) Zeppelin!

(1:11:30)  We have a Toro Rosso sighting.  We now return you to our usual programming.  ZEPPELIN!

(1:10:18) Daniel Ricciardo in the Toro Rosso was... I dunno, he couldn't drive a straight line down the front straight.  I dunno if he was trying to get some heat in the tires, or if the car was just snaking on him.  Looked weird as heck, like his front alignment was off.

(1:07:38) And the world champion takes the field.  Just found another thing I don't like about the platypus... because the nose has that ridiculous dropoff, you actually can't see the front of the nose at all. 

Which makes telling the difference between the Toro Rosso and Red Bull cars awfully hard from the T-bar camera (TR has a gold nose, RB a yellow one, btw).

(1:02:32) HWMNBN rips off the first legit flying lap of the season, taking two seconds off the best time so far.

(59:05)  And we have our first yellow flag of the season!

Courtesy of HRT and Narain Kittylitter!  "The engine, it just shut down on its own."  "Okay, park it so we can come get you Narain."  Good to see they're in midseason form already.

(54:56)  Y'know, I dunno if they'll win anything this season, but the Mercedes is awful purty.  Looks and a good haircut can get you a long way in this world.  Just ask Sergio Perez.

(51:34)  Or Nico Rosberg.

(48:07) HWMNBN is looking awfully racey today.  Wonder what's gotten into him?  He isn't known for blowing people's doors off during practice sessions...  Oy!  Lost my entire broadband connection for a few minutes there.

(41:44)  Starting to see some rubber buildup in a few places.  Pirelli said they were going to be bringing the pain this season as far as tire degradation goes, but that's ridiculous.

(39:17)  Nobody on track, so the FIA cameras are gathering "B-roll" footage. 

Yeah, well, we don't think you're exciting either, lady.

(33:35)  Gandalf and Shadowfax just took FIVE SECONDS off the fastest lap.

I think I know who's on dry soft tires...

(31:12)  Mark Webber is now second... some three and a half seconds behind Gandalf.  Shadowfax must be feelin' his oats today.

(28:15)  Well, that didn't take long.  Webbo just bumped Gandalf by some small fraction of a second.  Ces't la Grand Prix.

(25:09)  I just realized... other than a few shots of Button and Hamilton in the garage, we haven't seen the McLarens at all.  That can't be good at all.

(23:44) Nico Rosberg must not have liked the joke... he's just taken fastest lap.

(21:26)  This is my worst nightmare.  SLAPPY has fast lap now.  Good lord, what will I do if he wins a race this season???

(19:37)  Hey look!  It's a McLaren!  Oh.  It's just Lewis turning an installation lap.  Or he's been given a drive-through penalty, one of the two.  Chances are about even either way.

(17:09)  Button turns an installation lap, bringing us this pointless but incredibly cool camera shot:

(14:39)  Massa beaches it!

Taken off by the crane, session over for him.  He said it "went light and just snapped sideways."

(9:23)  Yeah, that sitting in the garage was a real problem, good call Wonderduck:

Please note that Button's got fast lap, but Hamilton is third.  Sure, "that can't be good."  If anybody with some talent would like to take over the F1U! duties, please contact me.

(6:30) Sergio Perez might have to change his firesuit after the sideways moment he just had... looked like he was drifting, except with a lot less control.  Yeesh.

(5:11)  Mumbles Raikkonen has taken to the track for the first time in three years!  And maybe it's showing: he's 20th.  Still too early to tell, though... maybe it's the car, maybe he wasn't pushing particularly hard. 

(2:30)  Seb Vettel just got borked on a flying lap.  Or he's having a bad day.  Or both.

(0:00)  Button on top, followed by Hamilton, Slappy, HWMNBN, and Webbo'.  The last three are still on track.

(Post-0:00) HWMNBN, there's a change of firesuits waiting for you, too.  Coming off the last turn, he wound up fishtailing and nearly sideways for a hundred yards or so.  The top five stay in their positions.

So what have we learned today?  Well, that the McLarens are fairly quick, the Red Bulls have got to be sandbagging, and Wonderduck knows absolutely zero about F1.  But boy is it good to have it back!  See you for Quals, I'm thinking!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 07:19 PM | Comments (10) | Add Comment
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March 14, 2012

Ducks In Anime: Wamphyri

-Nisemonogatari Ep04
I haven't watched one episode of this show yet.  I just jumped into the middle of Episode 04, realized the scene I was watching was taking place in a bathroom, and waited.  I knew SHAFT, being SHAFT, couldn't resist adding a duck into the scene.

For a second, I thought that they had slipped Yuno's duckie into the show... both HidaSketch and this one are by SHAFT, after all... but no, it's a different duck altogether.  Pity they missed that opportunity, I think.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 07:46 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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March 12, 2012

F1 On SPEED!: Australia 2012

It's been a long time since we last met back in November of 2011.  We were in Brazil back then, watching Seb Vettel take home his second consecutive Driver's Championship at the end of long and, let's face it, kinda dull season.  However, Formula 1, being what it is, always begins anew.  You know that things are starting up again when the teams drag themselves into Melbourne, their cars crated and palletized.

And such it is today as the 2012 season cranks into life!  It's back, baby!  Let's take a look at the trackmap for the traditional first race on the calendar, the Australian Grand Prix!

There's not a lot that I can say about the Melbourne circuit that I've not mentioned in the past.  While it's technically a street circuit, being run on the public roads and parking lots that go through Albert Park just south of the center of the city, it races much more like a standard road circuit.  Or, to put it another way, it's less like Singapore and more like Silverstone.  This is a good thing.  Drivers universally praise the circuit, believing it to be easy to get used to, but not so easy as to be boring.  There's a distinct sense of "going someplace" when you race in Melbourne, courtesy of the splendid scenery provided by... well, Albert Park isn't called a "park" because you leave your car there while you go to work.

Turn 8 from the golf course.
Unfortunately, there's a vocal (and loudly so) group of politicians and residents that want Melbourne to dump the race altogether.  Too loud, too eco-unfriendly, too expensive, you name it, they've yodeled about it.  Bernie "The Troll" Ecclestone, with his wonderful sense of history and style, agrees with them and thinks the race should go away.  We should enjoy this wonderful spectacle while we can, methinks.

Other than the usual bits about the circuit having not so much runoff area, fencing ridiculously near the track, and lots of painted lines on the racing surface that can play hob with grip, the big news for this year is that there'll be two DRS zones, as opposed to the last year's one.  Undoubtedly one will be on the front straight.  The location of the second is anybody's guess... I'm thinking the run from Turn 2 to Turn 3.  There really isn't any other place for it, unless you put it on the "straight" from Turn 10 to 11, which is actually a curve that needs the traction provided by the rear wing.  Then again, nothing like multi-million dollar cars careening through a catchfence and ending up in the lake to make the race go away, am I right?

It's all moot for this year, however... there WILL be a race, and the good cobbers at SPEED will be bringing us all the coverage with their usual aplomb and bonhomie.  Here's the schedule, which begins on Thursday:

Thursday: 830p - 10p  P1 streaming
Friday: 1230a - 210a  P2 live
            10p - 11p  P3 streaming
Saturday: 1a - 230a  Quals plausibly live
Sunday: 1230a - 3a  Grand Prix of Australia live
              1p - 330p GP of Australia replay

Now for a bit of Wonderduck scheduling.  There's pretty much no way I'll be able to provide coverage of P2, as there's an event at Duck U Friday night.  I'll be there from 815a to approximately 10p, give or take a half hour.  By the time I get back to Pond Central, it'll be 1030p and I'll be staring Quals dead in the face.  The good news is that I'll be trying to liveblog P1 right here at The Pond... nothing like starting the season off right, right?

F1's back, folks... let's see if we can't make it a good'un... and yes, I said "we."  I welcome, nay, nigh on require, all your questions and comments, educated or neophyte.  It makes it a lot easier if y'all participate!  Fair dinkum?  Fosters for everybody and I'll throw a few pounds of prawns on the barbie... mind the wallabies and the sugar gliders!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 08:26 PM | Comments (14) | Add Comment
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March 11, 2012

High School Of The Dead Ep01

There are times when I greatly enjoy blogging.  Where the intellectual stimulation it provides makes the sky blue, the birdies sing, my toes tingle and puts a big cheesy grin upon my face.  And then there are the times when I spend days banging my head against any convenient sturdy surface while trying to figure out how to deal with a topic.  Can you guess which one of these two options I've been experiencing as I've watched and rewatched the first episode of High School Of The Dead?  Don't get me wrong, I really like this show, but writing about an action series can be frustrating in the extreme.  But enough about my problems, let's get on with why you're really here... the zombie apocalypse!

"I stayed up late the night before the world came to an end" says the unnamed narrator.  Of course, he's a high school student... chances are he stays up late every night.  I did when I was a high schooler, even though I didn't have any reason to... I was a good little student.  Still, the drama is higher with the world ending than, say, "I stayed up late the night before one of my socks disappeared." 

Suddenly, zombies!  The walking dead!  Draugr!  Oh, and three allegedly non-zombie kids running across the roof of a school, armed with a baseball bat, a pointed stick, and a bloody bandage.  Wait, what?

A brief skirmish points out that the only way to kill the Shambling Deceased is to hit 'em in the head, and they that appear to be unstoppable otherwise.  Slow, but unstoppable.  Our heroes gain the heights of the Observatory Platform, and after saying that, I would like to point out that schools in Japan get all the cool stuff... an observatory?  Really?  I mean, yeah sure, my high school had a radio station, but I hand-wound the transmitter's antenna for pete's sake.  It had a range of about 100 yards!  We didn't have no frickin' observatory.  We did have ducks though, and that makes up for a lot.  If we DID have an observatory, I think there's a fair chance I wouldn't be sitting here, hammering on my keyboard on a weekend, but I digress.  The uninjured fellow takes one look at the Waddling Cadavers and yells to the heavens "What the hell is going on?!?!"   

High School Of The Dead, that's what's going on... and you're right in the middle of it, buster!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 10:33 PM | Comments (9) | Add Comment
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March 10, 2012

Tank Witch

Over at Steven's place, a discussion about the new Strike Witches movie is going on.  Over there, I mentioned that I'd kill to see some Tank Witches involved.  Reader Siergen wonders what a Tank Witch would look like, since they've not been animated, and Steven says their legs look like the lower half of Robby The Robot.  Still, that doesn't really clear anything up.  Fortunately, I can do a little better than that!

Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to introduce Elizabeth, a Britannia M4A1 (Early) Sherman Tank Witch!  She normally sits on top of my computer, guarding the external hard drives.  She ended up at Pond Central thanks to the good graces of Avatar, who sent her my way last year.  According to the light novels, since they don't have to fly, a Tank Witch can use more of her magic ability for her shields, much like a tank is more heavily protected than a fighter plane.  They're obviously slower, however, so there are tradeoffs.  Still no pants, though.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 11:19 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
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March 09, 2012

Saturday Night Tunage XIII : Friday Night Fish Fry!

Saturday Night Tunage, starring DJ Wonderduck, has returned!  "But DJ Wonderduck," I hear you saying, "it's not Saturday.  How can it be time for Saturday Night Tunage?"  Well, there's an interesting story behind that... originally, this series was to be on Friday, and be called "The Friday Night Fish Fry, with DJ Wonderduck."  Kinda like the title of this post, actually.

Okay, it wasn't that interesting of a story.  But it was a story, no way you can deny that!  Anyway!  You don't come to Saturday Night Tunage The Friday Night Fish Fry to hear stories, you come for the music... so let's get right to it!  And we've got a theme, to boot... Wonderduck goes to Minnesota!  And I swear that it's all true to the best of my memories.  The coincidences are firmly entrenched in my brain.


Posted by: Wonderduck at 10:22 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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