September 30, 2012

F1 on SPEED!: Japan 2012

When the F1 Circus rolled into Suzuka International Race Circuit last year, Seb Vettel clinched his second driver's championship.  What a difference a year makes, eh?  This year, he's 29 points behind HWMNBN and 16 points ahead of Kimi Raikkonen... ain't gonna be no coronation here!  While the fanatical Japanese fans miss out, it's great for all of us.  I suspect that only Italians at Monza  are more crazy about F1 than the Japanese at Suzuka.  And why not?  It's a fantastic circuit!  Let's take a look at the track map:
F1's only figure-eight circuit; fortunately, there's a bridge involved.  Really, if I didn't have such love for Silverstone and Spa, Suzuka would probably be my favorite circuit.  It's untouched by Tilke's talons, staying more-or-less the same since it opened in 1962.  The only changes made were the addition of the Casio Triangle, 130R being modified, and Degner being turned into two separate and distinct turns.  Other than that?  May as well be Showa 37 all over again!

Really, there's little to dislike about Suzuka.  There's no "mickey-mouse" turns here, they all exist for reasons other than to slow the track down.  And what turns!  The S-Curves are a rhythm section that if you get even the slightest bit wrong, will wreck your lap, yet are relatively quick.  The original Degner must have been a monster at speed; instead, 8 and 9 are still crazy tough.  Turn 12 is taken at nearly 180mph, leading into the unending, off-camber, narrowing-radius Spoon.  130R is even faster than 12, taken right around 190mph and might be more of a test of a driver's courage than Eau Rouge these days... and only the bravest or most foolhardy attempt to pass here.  The Casio Triangle chicane is the most likely passing place, and often enough ends up with carbon fiber shards flying.  It's a truly great track.  There's even some altitude change with a gentle increase from the S-Curves until 130R, when it drops back down to the Triangle.

One thing we learned last year is that the new surface is tough on tires.  The option tires lasted only 8-10 of the 53 lap race.  As we're aware, though, Pirelli has toughened the tires up this season, but it's not going to make that much of a difference.  I'd expect two or three stops during the race... unless it rains.  That's the big elephant in the pit lane, of course... we've had heavy rains here before, sometimes heavy enough to postpone entire sessions.  2010 was the last time we saw the Great Suzuka Boat Races down the pitlane, but it's always possible.  Obviously it's still early, but there's a chance of rain on race day.

Fortunately, the good ronin of SPEED's Legendary Announce Team will be bringing us all the coverage.  As I'm posting this early, I haven't found the streaming schedule for P1 and P3, but here's what I DO have:

Thursday/Friday
P2: 12midnight - 145a live
Friday/Saturday
Quals: 12midnight - 130a plausibly live
Sunday
1230a - 3a  Grand Prix of Japan live

Of course, F1U! will be all over the coverage as well; once we find out when streaming takes place, we'll probably try and liveblog.  See ya here!

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September 29, 2012

Random Anime Picture #72: Yeah, I Got Nothing


-Yuru Yuri S2, Ep04

When allergies get to be too much...

It's been since May since I last did a Random Anime Picture.  Considering I use them as space-fillers, I think that's okay, particularly since "writing" or "being clever" has been kinda low on my list of to-dos of late.  Work work work work work... and we're well out of rush, to boot!  Now it's trying to clean up after the busytime that's keeping me tied to my desk.  Throw in a dash of an ick that I can't seem to get rid of, and voila!  Desire to blog fades.

Not everybody has a gas mask lying around, y'know.

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September 28, 2012

Silly Season Starts Slammingly (...and other news)

Even before the F1 summer break had begun, rumors began to percolate that Lewis Hamilton, 2008 world champion, was beginning to "consider his options," as his contract with McLaren expires at the end of the 2012 season.  To be honest, I gave them no credit... why would he even consider leaving the team that almost literally raised him?  Everybody knows the true story of how a 10-year old Hamilton walked up to McLaren team principal Ron Dennis and declared "I want to race for you one day...".  Three years later, The Team From Woking signed him to their Young Drivers program.  He's been with McLaren ever since, has won 20 Grands Prix, finished one point behind in the championship in his rookie year of 2007, and as previously mentioned won the 2008 championship.

But the rumors persisted.  He was tabbed to be driving for Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes, Lotus, even Force India's name popped up once or twice in the grapevine.  The only major team he was never attached to was Red Bull; their lineup was set for 2013 a while ago.  Those of us noticing these things realized that HWMNBN was being nice about having Hamilton as a teammate, and taking digs at McLaren in the process: "I improved when I left McLaren, no reason he wouldn't if he drove for Ferrari."  Nobody believed Force India would legitimately be in play, and Lotus seemed disinterested, probably for financial reasons.  Those of us who remember 2007 saw no way that Hamilton would seriously consider having HWMNBN as a teammate again, no matter how much the Spaniard tried to sweet-talk him... one must remember that Satan is a great deceiver.  Which left McLaren and Mercedes as the only real contenders. 

And that's where the real problems began to arise, because Mercedes had a tie to the Brit as well; McLaren has had Mercedes engines his entire career, and his Young Driver's program contract was not with McLaren, but with both McLaren AND Mercedes.  Furthermore, with Slappy Schumacher's unretirement looking more and more like a mistake, the German team has been looking for someone to perhaps replace the 7-time world champ, and were willing to throw a LOT of money at the right person... and there was only one driver of such high cachet available.  Even with that, nobody really believed that Hamilton would leave McLaren.  In the past, he's proven himself to be much more interested in winning than in money.  To be sure, he's certainly not allergic to earning a dollar, but one got the distinct feeling that he'd drive for free if it got him into a car that'd give him a serious chance to win. 

Nobody seriously thinks that Mercedes is at the same level as McLaren... but in recent times, The Team From Woking has shot itself in the foot during races, hurting his chances to win... bad pit stops, reliability problems, terrible strategy decisions, all of these have cropped up of late.  At the most recent race in Singapore, another technical fault cost Hamilton an almost-guaranteed win.  However, it hasn't been all one-way; Hamilton had had fairly public temper tantrums, culminating with him tweeting out telemetry data showing the performance difference between his car and Jenson Button's at Spa.  Which brought us to this week, when things really began to heat up.  Last night, reports began to come in that he'd be announcing a move to Mercedes today.  I chose not to post about it until it became official, because it's F1... stuff like that can change on whim.  Well, today it occurred: Lewis Hamilton has signed a three-year contract said to be worth up to $100million with Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team.

To say this has shaken loose the 2013 driver seat scramble would be something of an understatement.  Slappy Schumacher is now without a drive, and his F1 career may very well be over.  McLaren on Monday said that they "had no Plan B" if Hamilton left because they couldn't believe he'd leave.  Well, it appears they developed a Plan B awfully fast, because today the team announced that current Sauber driver Sergio Perez will replace Hamilton in 2013.  To say that choice is a surprise is something of an understatement.  Not that he's a bad driver, far from it.

But "Checo" is a Mexican driver, sponsored by Telmex and had a contract with the Ferrari Driver Academy, their "young driver program."  Of course, Ferrari and McLaren have an institutional hatred of each other, and Vodafone, McLaren's primary sponsor, competes directly with Telmex.  It was definitely unlikely that he'd contract to McLaren, but there you are.  With three podium finishes for midpacker Sauber this season in only his second year of F1, he's probably the best available option out there.  The Swiss-based team has yet to announce his replacement for the 2013 year.  The next name to pay attention to is Felipe Massa... the odds of him being let go from Ferrari might be 50-50 and pick 'em, but for one thing.  Seb Vettel is rumored to have an out-clause in his contract with Red Bull that would allow him to leave in 2014... for Ferrari.  HWMNBN is going nowhere, so it seems unlikely that the team from Maranello would sign anybody for only one season; look for Massa to be back in 2013, then out in 2014.  Which is a shame; he'd be a nice fit back with Sauber where he started his career.  Romantically, there's also a thought that Slappy Schumacher would sign a one-year deal with Ferrari, then retire again.  While an intriguing idea, I don't think it's going to happen... putting that much evil all in one place seems impossible.

In other news, the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas announced on September 21st that they had completed laying the asphalt for the circuit, and for all intents and purposes were ready for November's race.  It took just over four months to pave the 3.4 mile circuit to FIA standards, with three layers having been put down.  More importantly, a couple of days ago FIA Technical Supremo Charlie Whiting inspected the track and approved it for Grade 1 racing, the highest level possible.  Certainly there's still stuff to do; landscaping, race curbing, striping and the like, but there won't be any last minute panic the way there was at Korea or India.

Finally, good news from the 2013 tech regulations.  The frighteningly ugly stepped noses of this year's cars (which, I'll admit, have kinda grown on me) will be going away next year.  Or, more correctly, they'll no longer be visible, which isn't quite the same thing.  See, the stepped nose is still required to be present... it's a safety device, after all... but it'll be allowed to be masked by an aero-neutral cover.  I guess Luca di Montezemelo's whining at the start of the season over how ugly the cars were actually accomplished something for once.

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September 27, 2012

Two Thousand Million Or So Years Ago...


A few years back, I felt the need to go to the roots of space-opera science fiction.  As I'd never read any of EE "Doc" Smith's work, and Robert Heinlein himself spoke well of the man's work (and told a wonderful story of how Smith tested a used car before Heinlein purchased it), I figured it was a slam dunk that I'd love it.

I was wrong.  I had never been more disappointed in a book since I found Farnham's Freehold in a used bookstore for a dime... and later felt ripped off.  Look, I'll admit that I was young and stupid when I read Triplanetary some eight years ago, but I felt the plot of the book was hackneyed and ridiculously over-used.

Of course it has, but that's not the author's fault.  Considering that Doc Smith for all intents and purposes invented the space-opera genre of science fiction, of course the book is hackneyed now... hundreds upon thousands of books and movies owe Smith their very existence.  But I didn't read the book when they were originally published (in pulp serial form), I read it in the 21st Century... and found it boring.  Dull.  Poorly written.  Uninteresting.

Shortly after I finished Triplanetary, my brain made the connection: the book was dull and cliched because it was the FIRST to do all the things that make space-opera space-opera.  Grand battle fleets tearing themselves apart with ray guns?  Hyperspace?  Shields?  All of that and more can be found in Smith's books...

...and I can't read them as novels.  Historical documents, yes, but not novels.  My brain, steeped in science fiction for 30 years (I started reading SF around the age of 10), just can't make the jump to read them in-period.  I might be missing out on a lot, but I can't do it.  They're just so...

Victorian.

I appreciate the chivalry that Steven speaks about in the post that generated this one.  I still hold doors open m'self, and so forth.  But Triplanetary does take it to an extreme... not even a darned chaste kiss to be seen, which seems unrealistic even for the 1930s.

There's one other thing missing from the book that really kills it for me, and that's a sense of humor.  It's so bad that Triplanetary can't come near books that have funny bits without killing them altogether... I placed it next to James Lileks' Mommy Knows Worst and haven't laughed at it since.  It's not that the jokes fall flat in Triplanetary, it's that there's no humor in the book anywhere.  I'm sorry, but that's a deal-breaker for me.  If a book or series is so darn serious that it can't laugh at itself even a little bit, I can't stand it.

So there you are.  I tried, I really did... but for this duck, the Doc is definitely out.

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September 26, 2012

The Perfect Food

I've heard people describe caviar as the best thing ever.  There are some who believe that a Chicago-style pizza is better than anything.  Or perhaps your tastes run towards fresh-grilled New York Strip and potatoes?  Fresh lobster dunked in garlic butter has been known to trip some triggers in the gastronomic world, no?  Or maybe something International is more your style?  Some pot au feu, mayhap?  The delicate taste of sushi or sashimi has many followers, as does the stronger tandoori chicken from India.  Pastas and the like from Italy?  A good sauce makes all the difference.  Or maybe it's something I haven't even mentioned.  I'm here to tell you that it all pales in comparison to the greatest food in the world.  Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present to you...

...apple cider donuts from Edwards Apple Orchard in Poplar Grove, IL.  "Eddie's," as I've always called it, has been an annual staple of my life for decades, as have their apple cider donuts.  Believe me when I say this... I would happily eat these things every day morning, noon and night.  Which is why I limit myself to just a single bag of them every year, and I don't even eat all of that: I give some away.  Today, Ph.Duck stopped into the Duck U Bookstore bearing a dozen still-warm donuts.  I ate one, gave away six, leaving me with five.

Five glorious pieces of heaven.  Okay, three now, but it's the thought that counts.  Om nom nom nom nom...

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September 24, 2012

This Should Explain A Lot

If you grew up in the '70s and '80s in the Chicago area, you knew WLS.  The Great 89, the only radio station worth listening to.  Of course, I grew up in that time in that place, and of course, WLS was my go-to station.  In the morning, as I was getting ready for school, I made sure to make time for Good Ol' Unka Lar' and his sidekick, Lil' Snotnose Tommy for some Animal Stories!


Just what was Animal Stories?  Just the funniest darn radio schtick of all time, that's all.  Click on, bunky...

more...

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September 23, 2012

F1 Update!: 2012 Grand Prix of Singapore

We can honestly say that it wasn't a bright sunny day in Singapore today.  That's because it's a night race!  So: it was a clear, hot, humid night at this island city-state as Lewis Hamilton led the rest of the field onto the starting grid.  But would he hold his position and cut into HWMNBN's points lead?  Or would Archmandrite Maldonado or Seb Vettel get past the McLaren driver and make their charge towards the Ferrari driver's score?  Or, just maybe, the Spaniard himself might win the race and stick a shiv into the back of everybody's championship hopes.  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2012 Grand Prix of Singapore!

*LIGHTS OUT:  When the race began, it immediately became obvious that this one was Lewis Hamilton's to lose.  He pulled quickly away from Seb Vettel who had gotten ahead of Maldonado before they reached the second turn.  Behind them, we saw four cars side-by-side into Turn 2, and the usual havoc caused by minor contact.  Felipe Massa was the biggest loser in the deal, dropping from 13th at the start to dead last with a lacerated left-rear tire.  The Red Menace's Caterham lost its nose, stopped, had it replaced, and left the pits before the Ferrari had made it to the pit lane, that's how bad it was for the Brazilian. 

*SO ON THEY RACE
:  While it wasn't entirely one-sided in the favor of the McLaren driver, Hamilton slowly opened a decent lead as the leaders hit their first pit stops around Lap 10; the super-soft tires were one-lap quick, but multi-lap fragile and lasted about as long as used tissue paper.  By the time the first pit rotation was over around Lap 20, Hamilton had a 1.5 second lead over Vettel, who headed Jenson Button by three seconds.  Maldonado and HWMNBN filled out the top five, and it looked like, barring incident or failures, that's how it was going to stay... and F1 cars have become nigh-on bulletproof in recent years.

*INCIDENT AND FAILURE:  ...and then we saw this.

Lewis Hamilton, his gearbox turned into metal shavings and hate, pulled his car into a runoff zone gloomily walked away, out of the race from the lead.  Both Seb Vettel and HWMNBN had to be laughing whole-heartedly.  Then we had an incident as Narain Kittylitter's suspension snapped, sending him into the wall and bringing out the first Safety Car of the night.  While the cars perambulated behind Berndt Maylander, HWMNBN started to laugh again as Archmandrite Maldonado withdrew from the race with a hydraulic failure.  In the span of a few laps, HWMNBN had gone from fifth to standing on the podium, through no action of his own. 

*RESTART, NO WAIT
:  Once the Safety Car made its way off the track, the race resumed for a grand total of one full lap before Berndt Maylander made his second appearance of the evening.  Slappy Schumacher had managed to crash into the rear of Jules Vergne's Toro Rosso under braking (see the Moooo-ooove of the Race).  There was another scramble into the pits to get any car on the super-soft tires off them, and away everybody went again.

*TIME'S UP:  The two safety car periods lasted nearly 10 laps between them, thereby guaranteeing that this race was going not going to go the full 61 laps.  Y'see, there is a two hour time limit to any F1 event, and Singapore is always right up against that limit; last year's ended after 119 minutes, for example.  When time reached zero, Seb Vettel led Jenson Button and HWMNBN across the line, two laps short of the scheduled 61.  It was all a bit anti-climactic, to be honest, though there was no way anybody was going to catch Vettel, nor was the Ferrari going to run down the McLaren.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Felipe Massa.  He had to pit at the end of Lap 1 after one of his rear tires got slashed by a front wing.  He emerged from the pits dead last.  He wound up finishing in 8th place, earned a Move of the Race, and may have saved his Ferrari career.  Good show for a guy who hasn't been the same since his horrible accident.

*TEAM OF THE RACE
:  Marussia.  What?  Well, nobody particularly distinguished themselves this race.  To be sure, Red Bull gained points on their closest rival McLaren, but when Hamilton went out they had a chance to bury them.  That didn't happen.  Ferrari got both their cars in the points, but combined they didn't score as many as Button.  Lotus got both in the points as well and still lost points to Ferrari.  Somebody had the chance to make a major statement in Singapore, and nobody stepped up to do so.  So when the dust cleared, nobody noticed that Tim O'Glockenspiel had brought his Marussia home in 12th place, the best finish for the team ever.  So tra-la, congratulations to Marussia, now the clear 10th-place team in the constructor's championship!

*MOVE OF THE RACE
:  On Lap 43, after the second Safety Car had gone in, Ferrari's beleaguered Felipe Massa was wanting to get by Bruno Senna's Williams something fierce.  Coming out of Turns 10, 11 and 12, the red car was all over the back of Senna, and then Massa thought he saw an opening.

Under normal circumstances, there's no way anybody would think about making a pass at this spot on the circuit.  Turn 13 is a horribly tight left-hander that just isn't a good place to make a move.  Massa, however, is under great pressure from Ferrari, with some thinking that he's driving for his very career in F1.  So away he went, never expecting that his fellow Brazilian would attempt to murder him.

For his part, Senna had made the decision that Massa was NOT getting by in one piece and moved left on the Ferrari.  To be fair, there was no obvious contact between the two, nor did Massa touch the barrier.  Having said that, we here at F1U! have no idea how that occurred.  To make matters worse, the Ferrari driver then dropped the car altogether and it began to slalom down the track.  Senna, his sense of self-preservation showing, moved to the right to avoid what was inevitably going to be an  pile of carbon fiber shards and tears.  Somehow, Massa regained a modicum of control, honked the wheel hard left, and prayed.

He came out of the turn ahead of Senna, and managed to stay there.  The SKYF1 broadcasters may have had the right of it when they said that it "wasn't an overtake, it was just an attempt not to crash."  Well, it was the best attempt not to crash of the race!  Felipe Massa, here's your MotR!

*MOOOOO-OOOOVE OF THE RACE
:  After Narain Kittylitter's Safety Car pulled in to restart the race,  the surviving runners were, as usual, single-file.  There was jockeying, but it looked like everybody was more or less content to let tire temperatures come up.  At Turn 14, there were two cars side-by-side, Jules Vergne to the outside of a Sauber.  Behind them was Slappy Schumacher, coming hard.  Maybe too hard, as he apparently neglected his braking point.  There was a huge cloud of tire smoke and brake dust behind the two dueling cars... and then:

The surprised and exasperated radio call from the Mercedes pit wall to the seven-time world champion was... telling: "What happened there?  What happened there???"  We suspect the reason we didn't hear Slappy's reply was that it was unfit for a family broadcast.  We here at F1U! note that this is the second year in a row he's had an incident like this under the lights at Singapore, and suggest that perhaps his eyes aren't as good as they used to be... after all, ours aren't.  Congratulations, Slappy, here's your Mooooo!  Oh, and a 10-spot grid penalty for Japan, too.  Honorable mention goes to Mark Webber, who passed Gandalf Kobayashi for 10th place near the end of the race at one of the few places you can manage to get all four tires off the circuit, thus earning a 20 second time penalty and losing his one point.  Good job!

*SELECTED DRIVER QUOTES OF THE RACE:

more...

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September 22, 2012

Staring

I've worked on Ep03 of Ben-To for three hours.  I've finished two paragraphs.

That's not good.

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F1 Quals: Singapore 2012

Seb Vettel and Red Bull made it three-for-three in the Practice sessions; nobody could even touch the world champ.  So Quals are a foregone conclusion, right?  Let's take a look at the provisional grid for the 2012 Grand Prix of Singapore:

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:48.285 1:46.665 1:46.362
2 Archmandrite Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:49.494 1:47.602 1:46.804
3 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:48.240 1:46.791 1:46.905
4 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:49.381 1:47.661 1:46.939
5 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:49.391 1:47.567 1:47.216
6 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:48.028 1:47.667 1:47.241
7 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:48.717 1:47.513 1:47.475
8 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:47.688 1:47.529 1:47.788
9 Slappy Schumacher Mercedes 1:49.546 1:47.823 No Time
10 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:49.463 1:47.943 No Time
11 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:49.547 1:47.975
12 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 1:48.169 1:48.261
13 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:49.767 1:48.344
14 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1:49.055 1:48.505
15 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:49.023 1:48.774
16 Jules Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:49.564 1:48.849
17 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1:49.809 No Time

18 Gandalf Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:49.933

19 The Red Menace
Caterham-Renault 1:50.846

20 Heikki Kovalaineninnie Caterham-Renault 1:51.137

21 Tim O'Glockenspiel Marussia-Cosworth 1:51.370

22 Charles ToothPic Marussia-Cosworth 1:51.762

23 Narain Kittylitter HRT-Cosworth 1:52.372

24 Pete Rose
HRT-Cosworth 1:53.355


Q1 107% Time
1:55.226


Okay, if you didn't see that one coming, you either haven't been reading this blog for long, or you know me too well.  It's McLaren's fourth pole in a row, with Hamilton earning three of them.  After P2, he said he felt he had another half-second to pull out of the car, and it seems that he managed that.  I'm trying to figure out if it's a surprise that Maldonado took second place; he's very quick, but he's also very uncontrolled.  I'm stunned that Paul di Resta managed to do so well on this track... where Singapore seems to cater to the Red Bull strengths, it also seems to hit all the Force India weaknesses.  Or so I would have thought.  Everybody has an eye cocked on 8th on the grid, though... Lettuce Grosjean is back from his one-race ban.  He's saying that getting Monza off has taught him a lesson, and he'll be a better driver for it, but oy.  Could he have been dropped in a more dangerous spot?  And by dangerous, I mean "for everybody around him."

Everybody else is basically where we've come to expect them, though Kimi in 12th is a little low.  For the most part, it's shaping up to be a normal lineup.  With the narrow track bordered by concrete walls and essentially zero runoff area, there's been at least one safety car every year here in Singapore, so it might come down to the driver that benefits the most from this year's... and who brings it out.  We shall see tomorrow, and F1Update! will be all over it!  See ya then.

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September 21, 2012

F1 Practice: Singapore 2012

Y'know, I watched the live coverage of P2 around 10a, then went out to run errands, get some groceries, have lunch, then came home... and kinda forgot to do the writeup, took a nap, and here I am at 8pm.  Oh yeah, writeup!  Well here it is!  Better late than never, amirite?  To be honest, there's not a whole heckuvalot to write about, but let's get right to it!

Red Bull's Sebby Vettel led both P1 and P2, which A) shouldn't be a surprise because this is pretty much the perfect sort of track for the RB8; and 2) probably doesn't matter a whit.  It wasn't like the performance gap was huge; though it was .311 in P2 over Jenson Button, that was on one "qualifying style" lap.  When you look at the full-fuel-load laps, there's nothing between the Red Bulls, McLarens and Ferraris.  However, Vettel does have one advantage for this race that nobody else has:


A LIGHT-UP HELMET! 

...

That's right.  Sebby has a blinky-LED helmet.  I so badly want it to be hooked up to the KERS system, so that it only lights up when he presses the go-fast button.  Actually, it seems like they've kinda gone insane over at Red Bull.  After all, there's also this:

It goes without saying that Red Bull's pit stop times have gone up.

Really, the biggest news today is that 2013's provisional calendar has been released... and at least for 2013, Valencia is gone.  It's apparently going to be alternating with Barcalounger as the location of the GP of Spain, so we'll see it in two years... and with its disappearance, the "Grand Prix of Europe" designation goes away as well. 

In its place?  TWO Grands Prix here in the USA.  The Grand Prix of America, aka Grand Prix of Weehawken and I don't care what it's officially called, will be June 16th... the weekend after Canada.  Meanwhile, the second running of the  United States Grand Prix will be November 17th, the penultimate race of the year.  Expect ridiculously heavy coverage of both here at The Pond.

Right, Quals in the morning and we'll see you then!

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September 20, 2012

How A Manga Helped A Duck

Warning: this post is going to have a bunch of Wonderduck details from a dark time.  If you're not in the mood for that sort of thing, thanks for stopping in and here's a picture of a cute girl.

For the rest of you, thanks for sticking around.

more...

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Three Years Later


I can't fathom that it's been three years since that hideous time.  It's been a rough three years.  I miss her every day, and still occasionally wonder why my phone doesn't ring at 7pm for our nightly chat.  One keeps on going, but it's not easy sometimes. 

I'm going back to bed.

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September 19, 2012

It's International Talk Like A Pirate Day


Yar.

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September 18, 2012

Football's Unknown Legend

If you're a fan of the National Football League, there's every chance in the world that, in some way, Steve Sabol got you there.  Y'see, Steve and his father Ed were the creators of NFL Films, what became the official PR division of Pro Football.  Seen a commercial for the NFL?  The Sabols invented the style used.  Any of the hundreds of documentaries, or team season highlight packages?  NFL Films did it.  In the process, the Sabols created a dramatic style that works brilliantly for football, and has been blatantly stolen by just about every sport since.  It's colloquially known as "Tight On The Spiral," because of the use of a zoomed-in camera shot on a football in slow-motion.  Throw in dramatic music, isolation shots on the "hidden game", and a sense of the ridiculous, and you get... well, this:


NFL Films can make the most boring, terrible game seem like a titanic struggle of immense importance akin to Normandy and the Battle of Britain all rolled into one.  Arguably, the NFL wouldn't be anywhere near as successful as it is without the creative genius of Steve and Ed Sabol.  He personally won 40 Emmy awards, and NFL films over 100 under his direction.

Steve Sabol passed away today at the age of 69.  There had best be a moment of silence at every game this Sunday.

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September 17, 2012

F1 on SPEED!: Singapore 2012

There are other street circuits on the F1 calendar, but there is only one night race.  This week, the F1 Circus makes its way to the island city-state of Singapore!

There is no other race where the cars look as good as Singapore, glittering like jewels under the 1600 lighting units.  There's also no circuit that's as flat-out physical as this one, what with the incessant heat and humidity that comes from being located 85 miles north of the equator.  Let's take a look at the track map:

The biggest complaint the drivers have with the Marina Bay Circuit is that it's very bumpy, and no less a name than Lewis Hamilton has said that Turn 10 ("The Singapore Sling") is the worst turn in F1.  The curbs there are quite high and can get you airborne and into the barriers in a flash, and the entry to the turn has been narrowed as well, making it even more difficult to get through. 

As a whole, this is the second-slowest track on the calendar, just behind Monaco.  Coming after two very fast, very low-downforce races, the teams now have to change to a high-downforce setup.  Because of the necessity of riding the curbs (except for Turn 10!), the car suspension is usually set softer than average, to keep the car on the ground as much as possible.  The brakes get a heavy workout here, not so much because there's a heavy braking zone (there isn't) as because of the constant stop-and-go nature of the layout.  The brakes never get much of a chance to cool off as a result, requiring heavier use of the brakes, meaning they get hotter still... and so on.  Finally, in the past tire wear has been rather elevated around here.  With Pirelli reformulating their rubber to last longer, we really don't know what's going to happen, but it's a fair guess that it'll still be rough on the tires.

One thing to keep in mind is that, since the race is being run under the lights, it's a whole different look through the helmet for the drivers.  There is no single light source (i.e. The Sun), and the lights themselves are a different color temperature as well.  As a result, you need different shading through the visor.  Ferrari's HWMNBN has a new helmet for the race, as found via his twitter feed:

He really needs to stop being such a goofball, otherwise he's in danger of losing his nickname.

Fortunately for all of us, the Legendary Announce Team is 100% professional 100% of the time, and they'll be providing their special brand of coverage on SPEED! this weekend.  Here's the schedule:

Friday
P1: 430a - 6a streaming
P2: 830a - 1010a live
Saturday
P3: 5a - 6a streaming
Quals: 8a - 930a live-ish
Sunday
630a - 9a: 2012 Grand Prix of Singapore, live.

There's rain scheduled all weekend, which shouldn't be a surprise, because it's always scheduled to rain in Singapore.  The question is "will it rain during the race?"  My memory may fail me, but I can't remember a wet race the previous four seasons (searching, searching, searching... nope, never!), despite forecasted rain all four years.  We'll see, but I'd love to see a wet night race. 

See you Friday!

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September 16, 2012

I'm A Happy Duck

I just found out that the fourth season of Hidamari Sketch begins airing October 4th!


Sign me up right the heck now.

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I BEG YOU...

...when leaving a link to a website in comments, USE THE LINK BUTTON.  I will delete any comment that has a raw URL in it; they're ugly, they set the spam klaxon to screaming, and are generally bad juju all around.

If you don't know how to use the Link button, there is a step-by-step tutorial located right here.  Please, I beg you... don't make nervous F1 reporter guy any more scared than he already is.

We cool?  Good show.  Thank you.

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September 14, 2012

Name This Mystery Ship XX

My internet connection has been gone for most of the past two days, so now that I'm back, it's time for a Mystery Ship in celebration... and it may be a doozy.

FDM and CXT, don't sprain your hands diving for the keyboard... you two can't play for 24 hours (or 1130pm Central Pond Time on Saturday).  Everybody else, no image searching or the like, one guess per person, have at it!  Winner gets a post of your choice.  Good luck!

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September 12, 2012

The Unsung Hero Of F1

The last fatality in Formula 1 was Ayrton Senna in 1994.  That tragedy spurred the switch to safety features in F1, like the HANS device, the slower tracks, larger run-off areas, better helmets, improved cockpit security, better wheel tethers, and on and on.

One of the men who pushed these changes through wasn't a driver, but he took the green flag for every race from 1978 to 2004.  His name was Professor Sid Watkins, and he was the official Formula 1 Safety and Medical delegate, head of the F1 on-track medical team and first responder in the case of an accident, and a world-renowned  neurosurgeon. 

It was at Watkins' insistence that every F1 race has a medical car, a medevac helicopter, and full emergency medical services at the track, just in case of the worst.  Drivers such as Rubens Barrichello, Mika Hakkinen, Gerhardt Berger and others owe their lives to his direct action, and every driver who's in a wreck that looks unsurvivable (Mark Webber's flip, for example) can give him a tip of the helmet for helping keep them alive.  While he retired from his race post in 2004, he became the president of the FIA Institute for Motor Sport Safety, a group that has done more to keep racers alive than probably any other.

Professor Sid Watkins passed away today.  He was 84.  His job was to keep F1 drivers alive, and he was very, very good at his job.

(Update: a good article about his career is here.)

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Visiting Politician

Back in June, I was contacted by one of the various organizations located on the Duck U campus, letting me know that we had A Big Name speaking here in September.  A rather well-known politician from the Northern Flatland/Southern Cheddarland vicinity, there'd be two booksigning events and would the Bookstore like to be in charge of that part?  Of course, the answer was "Yep, can do!" 

And who was this paragon of politicianism?

more...

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