March 31, 2014

F1 on NBCSN: Bahrain 2014

From the always wet and humid Malaysia the F1 Circus hops on some planes and flies to desert country Bahrain... where they're predicting thunderstorms during Practice 2.  What the $#&* is going on?  Here's the track map for this most unwelcome of stops.

I notice that there's less discussion about the human rights violations and the continuing uprising this year.  I suspect part of that is down to outspoken Mark Webber no longer being in the paddock.  Also there might be some sort of unspoken rule that revolutions shouldn't take three years... either they work or they don't (note: Wonderduck, Wonderduck's Pond, F1U!, The Flock, and any other term regularly used at this website does not agree with this assessment).  In today's media cycle, three weeks is a lifetime.

Normally I'd complain and moan about the circuit... it's a Tilkedrome, yadda yadda yadda... but we're learning that the new tech rules have thrown out everything we've known about the tracks.  What might have been dull and boring last year has the potential of being vaguely interesting this season.  I mean, when the cars are suffering wheelspin up through fifth gear, anything becomes possible.  Now that I've said that, oh my god, how many cars are going to finish at Monaco?  There's not enough room there to fishtail!  Back to Bahrain, the circuit will be ridiculously dirty and/or sandy all weekend, so there'll be even less grip than normal.

And then there's the real wildcard: for the first time, Bahrain will be raced under the lights!  Yep, it'll be a night race.  I give up, there's officially no way of knowing just exactly what's going to happen this weekend.  As long as everybody stays safe both on and off the track, I'll be happy with the result... and continue to hope that Formula 1 never, ever comes back.

Until that time, however, the Less-Than-Legendary Announce Team will be providing their usual good coverage to us live and in color!  Let's take a look at when:

P2: 10a - 1130a live
Quals: 10a - 1130a live
2014 GP of Bahrain: 930a - 12noon live

A race I don't have to stay up to ridiculous hours for?  Okay, I'm game!  We'll see you then, then!

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March 30, 2014

F1 Update!: Malaysia 2014

A hot and humid day greeted the assembled F1 Circus as they formed up on the grid in Kuala Lumpur, with a low, dark sky overhead threatening to dump rain at any time.  In short, just another day in Malaysia!  Would polesitter Shiv Hamilton lead his Mercedes home for the win?  Would his teammate Nico Rosberg make it two in a row?  Or would the slightly surprising Hannibal Vettel get the first win of his title defense?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2014 Grand Prix of Malaysia!

*GO!:  Unlike last race, they only needed one try to get under way, and what a start it was for Mercedes.  Shiv Hamilton rocketed off the line, clearly untouchable, while Vettel's car seemingly infected by the dreaded Mark Webber Lousy Start© disease, was completely unable to hold back a charging Rosberg.  Nor could he keep his own teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, from jumping in front, something we never thought we'd see here at the F1U! Palatial Studios.  It would take a few laps for 4Time Vettel to take the position back from the junior member of the team, by which point it was clearly academic: unless there was a Mercedes breakdown, there was no stopping the Silver Arrows today.

*GOOD TO BAD TO WORSE TO ARE YOU KIDDING ME?:  For Ricciardo, the day was shaping up to be continued proof that he could hang with his more highly decorated teammate.  While he'd surrendered third place to 4Time, the Australian had hung on his tail, right up until the final round of pitstops.  It was on Lap 41, though, that everything went south.  Ricciardo stopped for tires, an evolution that went as smoothly as always until he was released back into the pit lane... it seems that the man on the front-left tire had not yet finished bolting it onto the car when the Aussie drove away.  While he was quickly told to stop, he had managed to make it a good distance down the lane... and while there are hundreds of ways to be penalized during a race, there are really very few that will get you disqualified from a race.  One of those, though, is reversing in the pit lane.  So he had to sit there until the Red Bull mechanics could run down to where he was, then push him back to the pit stall, complete the act of bolting on the tire, then let him go again.  In the process, he was lapped.  From 4th place to nowhere in a heartbreaking minute.  And then it got worse.  A lap after the fiasco, one of the mounting pylons on his front wing broke, dropping the wing to the ground and causing one of the endplates to begin digging a groove trench in the tire.  Right back into the pits he went for new tires and a new nose, exiting some two or three laps down.  Then, as if all of that wasn't enough, a lap later he got the news that he had been given a 10 second stop/go penalty for the earlier unsafe release into the pits.  By the time THAT had been served, he was four laps down and would retire the car a few laps later.  Not the luckiest of racers, our boy Daniel.  Oh, and then the FIA handed him a 10-grid spot penalty for the next race as well.

*RACE END:  Hamilton was dominating the race so totally that Mercedes was actually telling him to "preserve the engine" around the half-way point.  This meant that the lead to his teammate was only 17 seconds when the Grand Prix ended.  Similarly, Rosberg had been able to dial his settings back as well, and still beat Vettel to the line by a good seven seconds.  What's more telling, however, is the fact that only eight cars were on the lead lap when the race ended.  That's a disturbing statistic, and one that could suggest a huge gap between the "haves" and the "have nots" is brewing.  For now, however, the new F1 is proving to be quite refreshing: it wasn't the most fabulous of races, but at no time were you bored.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Lewis Hamilton.  The Shiv recovered nicely from his car failure at Australia, didn't he? At this point, we want to note that the average driver loses roughly 7lbs during a race at Malaysia, yet Hamilton was bouncing around like he'd just driven down to the corner shop after the race.  Amazing.

: The first Mercedes 1-2 finish since 1955, and they're now leading the Constructor's Championship with 68 points.  Red Bull has 15.  Yes, we relished saying that.

*MOMENT OF THE RACE:  For most of his career, Felipe Massa has been told to pull aside and let his teammate pass.  It came to a head a couple of years ago when he was told "Fernando is faster than you."  Immediately afterwards, it seemed like the "fighting spirit" had gone out of him, and he was never the same driver again.  Signing with Williams this year, it seemed unlikely that he'd be put into a similar situation again.  That lasted all of two races.  Late in the race, he'd been dueling with the McLaren of Jenson Button for 6th place, never quite seeming to be able to close up to really challenge the Brit.  Meanwhile, Valterri Bottas, his Williams teammate, had fresher tires and was looking a bit racier on the day.  The inevitable occurred, and the Williams pit wall called out "Felipe, Valterri is faster than you."  They even used the same sentence.  And Massa refused to pull over.  A second call went out, explaining the tire situation.  One could imagine the diminutive Brazilian replying with a "come get some" hand gesture.  To his credit, he did keep Bottas behind for the rest of the race, but at what price his standing with the team?  This could prove to be very important down the road...



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March 29, 2014

As Seen On Texas Baseball Town!

A few days ago, friend Ben from Midnight Tease and his new Texas Baseball Town pointed out that my beloved Chicago Cubs had, of late, been making trades with his Texas Rangers, trades that have turned out fairly well for the Northsiders of late.  Understanding that he's somewhat biased about these deals as a Rangers fan, he asked if I'd be willing to look at them from the other side.  "Sure," I said, and he put it up at his place.  Longtime Pond readers know that I'm a huge baseball fan, but I don't often write about it here... that's not what the Pond is about, after all... but it felt good to stretch my wings on a topic I haven't run into the ground.  So here's the result of my turning my restrained, thoughtful style of writing towards baseball trades.  Oh, and go visit TBT, will ya?


Earlier today, I found myself at work when, from out of nowhere, our charming and delightful host here at the Wrigleyville South Baseball Blog popped up and asked if I'd like to write a little bit about the Arlington-Chicago pipeline.  After asking "who are you and how did you get in here?" and calling security, I stepped into my office and locked the door behind me.  After the weird person with the Rangers cap was escorted away by Virgil and Ron, I thought about his request and thought "eh, why not?"

It would be wrong to say that the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers have been trading partners over the past couple of years, because that would suggest that there has been equanimity between the two teams.  In truth, the Cubs have been stealing the Rangers blind the entire time.  For example, the Matt Garza deal.  Or, as it should really be called, "13 mediocre starts by Matt Garza for Mike Olt, CJ Edwards, Justin Grimm, and Neil Ramirez."

Edwards could grow up to be a #3 starter.  Grimm looked good until he hit Triple-A, at which point he discovered that baseball can be difficult, and the big leagues, at which point he discovered that perhaps selling cars isn't such a bad career after all.  Ramirez is probably what is termed "organizational depth," as in "you need 25 players on a team, and they can't all be Mike Trout." 

And then there's Mike Olt. 

Mike "I'll be starting for the Cubs this year" Olt.  In Wrigley Field.  When the trade first happened, the general consensus on sports-talk radio up here was that he was their third sacker for the rest of the decade at least.  Me, I was some small amount less excited; the Cubs seem to have an institutional inability to create third-basemen out of can't-miss minor leaguers (Kevin Orie, anyone?  How about Gary Scott?  Heck, even the best Cubs trade of all time involved a third baseman that failed at the position... turned out Ryne Sandberg was okay at second, though).  Despite this, I still thought Olt had a good chance to take over the hot corner at Sheffield and Addison.  Turns out the Cubs agreed with me and put him on the major league roster today.

Meanwhile, Matt Garza will be pitching for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2014.  Well, heck, that's okay, the Rangers still have that other Cubs pitcher you got a few years ago, Ryan Dempster, right?  Oh, wait.  Well, the Northsiders still have Kyle Hendricks and Christian Villanueva from that deal. Hendricks will be down in Triple-A to start the year, but it wouldn't have been a huge surprise if he had made the team out of Spring Training.  Villanueva, on the other hand, suddenly has his path to the big leagues blocked by... Mike Olt.  Whoopsie.  Okay, you say, but Geovany Soto will be our starting catcher again, and he was a Cubs player!  Yep, and as soon as his knee heals in twelve weeks, he'll be back to being Geo (Metro) Soto again.

It's been brought to my attention that the Rangers picked up ex-Cub Donnie Murphy off waivers today.  My first reaction to this bit of news: "who?"  My second reaction: "he was still on the Cubs?"  Murphy is a 31-year old... let's be charitable and call him a "journeyman"... third-baseman that hit 11 homers last season (while striking out 48 times and walking eight).  He'd hit 18 home runs in his previous six seasons combined.  There's no question that he's better than not having a player at third base at all, so you've got that going for you, Ranger fans!

Once upon a time, the Cubs used to steal the Pittsburgh Pirates blind regularly.  Now it looks like their attentions have turned to Arlington.  At times like this, it's best just not to answer the phone if the caller ID shows an area code of "312."  Trust me, you'll be better off.

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F1 Quals: Malaysia 2014

So last night's sleep event found me awake at 345am.  Oh, hey, I thought, I can catch the end of Quals.  I dragged myself out to the living room, turned on the TV and discovered, much to my surprise, that Q1 had begun just moments before!  Did I get the time wrong?  Confused, I checked the schedule... nope!  Q3 should have been ending.  Wha hoppen?

Oh.  Well, it is Malaysia, isn't it?  A one-hour delay was the result of most of the Malacca Strait being dumped on the racetrack, and it never entirely stopped at any time during Quals.  Which means a "who knows?" result?  Let's find out, here's the provisional grid:

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:57.202 1:59.041 1:59.431
2 Hannibal Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:57.654 1:59.399 1:59.486
3 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:57.183 1:59.445 2:00.050
4 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:58.889 2:01.356 2:00.175
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:58.913 2:00.147 2:00.541
6 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:59.257 2:01.532 2:01.218
7 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:58.883 2:00.839 2:01.712
8 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 2:00.358 2:02.094 2:02.213
9 Jules Vergne STR-Renault 2:01.689 2:02.096 2:03.078
10 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 2:00.889 2:01.810 2:04.053
11 Kid Kvyat STR-Renault 2:01.175 2:02.351
12 Esteban! Sauber-Ferrari 2:01.134 2:02.369
13 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 2:00.047 2:02.460
14 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 2:00.076 2:02.511
15 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1:59.709 2:02.756
16 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus-Renault 2:00.202 2:02.885
17 Williams Maldonado Lotus-Renault 2:02.074

18 Adrian F'n Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 2:02.131

19 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 2:02.702

20 Gandalf Kobayashi Caterham-Renault 2:03.595

21 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 2:04.388

22 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 2:04.407

Q1 107% Time

Strangely enough, the grid isn't messed up.  It very much is about how you'd expect a dry Quals to end up.  Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.

Seb Vettel has been complaining this week about the sound of the engines, saying they sound "like sh*t."  He'd probably like the sound more if his lasted more than a few laps.  What I'm saying is that seeing him up in 2nd isn't anything to be concerned about... yet.  Reliability is more important than pace right now.

Jenson Button has got to be peeved.  At every turn McLaren screwed up his tire strategy.  "Hey, Jenson, let's send you out on Inters!"  I dunno, there are fish swimming on the front straight... "Nah, it'll be fine, trust us!"  Ohhhh-kay...  (one lap later) ... This isn't working very well.  "Okay, come in for Full Wets.  By the way, we expect the track to dry in a couple of minutes."  Sunuva.... okay, Inters again.  "We gave you an oxygen tank for when the deluge we're looking at on radar hits."  SPLOOSH.  (Button sobs uncontrollably)

Race in the morning... more rain is forecast, so who knows, maybe it'll be in the afternoon!

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March 28, 2014

2014 Malaysia Practice Writeup Not Happening

On the one hand, it's Friday night, and wonderful things happen on Friday night!  On the other hand, I didn't get home from work until 930pm.  As you can guess, I'm a little bit tired, and the prospect of watching 90 minutes of Malaysian practice doesn't particularly appeal to me.  So now that I've had dinner, and written this, I'm going to go lie down.  If I get up tonight, great.  If I don't wake up until tomorrow, I'm okay with that, too.

F1's version of tentacle porn.

Quals in the morning.  THAT, I'll watch.

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March 26, 2014

Defender Of Nori

Ladies and Gentlemen, we all know how dangerous everyday life can be.  One can be outside taking the blobfish for a drag when suddenly, BAM!, one explosive garbage can and your entire life is ruined forever.  And it's not just randomly detonating containers, no no.  Upon occasion, even things as innocuous as trees, concrete, pebbles, clouds, and sugar gliders are known to combust spontaneously like a trespasser at a Rammstein concert.  So what's a justifiably concerned biped with a relatively new and innocent desktop computer named "Nori" to do for local defense?  In this particular case, I decided to go right to the top... I hired Rensouhou-chan.

Or, as I prefer to call him, "Turret-kun."  If you're reading this blog, and I beg your forgiveness if you are, you've likely at least heard of a Japanese online game called "Kantai Collection," or "KanColle" for short.  KanColle is, if I've got this right, a game where you are a Fleet Commander, and your fleet is made up of anthropomorphic ships from the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II... that are all young women.  If that isn't awesome enough for you, damage taken in the game is reflected by torn clothing.  Yeah, I know.  Did I mention that there's an anime coming out this Summer for the game?

Anyway, in the game, Turret-kun up there is the pal of Shimakaze, which in the Pacific War was a one-off "super destroyer".  41 knots top speed, a stunning 15 torpedo tubes, and six 5" dual-purpose guns in twin turrets... just like Turret-kun up there!  And he's perfect to protect Nori from wayward dangers like suicidal 'splody stoats.

I feel safer already.

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March 24, 2014

F1 on NBCSN: Malaysia 2014

So I started writing a post about the upcoming Grand Prix of Malaysia, but after a little while, it disappeared.

Nope, not gonna apologize for that joke.  There, I just provided you with more information about the missing airplane than the media did for two weeks.  I won't even do more than mention in passing the ridiculous accusation that the F1 Circus is kicking grieving families out of hotels in Malaysia.  Nope, I'll let Will Buxton, the fourth member of the Legendary Announce Team, deal with it

As far as the track goes, I've written a lot about it in the past, and haven't been able to come up with much else to talk about regarding it, so we'll leave it be.  Last year, we got the infamous "Multi 21" incident between Hannibal Vettel and Mark Webber.  Two years ago was a one-hour long red flag due to rain... what will this year bring us?  Well, it'll be hot and humid with a change of thunderstorms all weekend... in other words, exactly the same as always.

Whatever happens, the new-look Legendary Announce Team (minus The Varsha) will show us the usual good time... and here's when!

Practice 2: 1a - 230a live
Quals: 3a - 430a live
Race: 230a - 5a live

Could be fun...will reliability still be the race-winning thing, or will speed and skill play their parts again?  And will Red Bull continue their temper-tantrum all weekend?  You cheated, you got caught, you got penalized... deal with it, Dieter.

That's all I gots... see ya on Friday!

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March 22, 2014

Fantasy Baseball: I'm Doing It Wrong

Right, let's get this part out of the way: no matter how much I am about to moan and whine, I'm still probably the frontrunner in the league.  I know a few of the players expect me to run away with the thing, and I really should.  But I'll be damned if I didn't pee the draft right now the leg of my uniform.

As a reminder, this is an American League-only league.  Y'know, lots of big hulking power hitters, teeny-tiny ballparks, chicks dig the long ball, pitchers chuckin' and duckin', get out the rye bread and mustard, grandma, 'cause it's GRAND SALAMI TIME!  Station-to-station and wait for the two-run jack, Earl Weaver-style of baseball.

So why do I have a team full of players that make speed the focus of their offense?  Dear merciful heavens, it's like I've got... a National League team!  Which makes sense, of course, being a National League fan.  My entire roster has a permanent steal sign posted and notarized at all times.  Which is great, except it's really hard to steal home plate.

Well, if you don't have offense, I hear you saying, you must have  a pitching staff, right?

I have the only knuckleballer in the major leagues, a Mazda dealer, a guy who's never pitched in America before... and a guy who had his leg fall off.  I just might be doomed.

On the other hand, it's baseball, and how cool is that? 

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March 21, 2014

Fantasy Baseball Draft Tomorrow...

...that must mean it's time for Wonderduck to get serious about getting ready for this.

This is, of course, the league that was set up with Ben from Texas Baseball Town, advertised here.  We ended up with seven players, which should make for just enough for a bunch of rookies (even if a few of us aren't quite rookies).  Goes without saying that I'm still the "old hand" at fantasy baseball in the league.

Which is why I haven't really worried a whole lot about studying and researching and stuff like that.  I wanna have FUN with this one!  I've got some cheatsheets, and that's all I need.  I'll update the results after the draft (3pm Central time on Saturday).

If I don't decide to take a nap instead, that is.  Baseball is back!

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March 19, 2014

Awesomely Awesome Awesomeness

So dziban303 asked earlier if I "could clarify why the XF8U-3 looks so incredibly awesome."  That's something I can do.  If there's something I'm good at, it's being a judge of what's awesome.

So, being a judge of what's awesome comes naturally to me.   But when you ask Wonderduck why a jet fighter looks awesome, you're treading on dangerous ground because I can go on for quite a long time about such awesome things.  If you don't know of what dziban is referring, here is the XF8U-3 Super Crusader!

On first glance, one sorta has to wonder just what dizzyban is talking about.  It's a tubby Crusader, big deal, so what?  And isn't there some sort of unwritten rule that any jet fighter that flies for the French is automatically not awesome?  Ah, but this isn't a Crusader... it's the SUPER CRUSADER, duhn-duh-duhhhhhhhhhh!  See, someone decided that the original F8U, the "Last Gunfighter," wasn't awesome enough on it's own, what with a variable incidence wing and all that sorta good stuff, no.  They had to make it SUPER awesome!

See, what they did is build a whole new airplane, stick a bigger engine in it, and say "you're gonna be faster than your cousin."  And it was, by nearly .50mach.  In fact, it went so fast that it needed an extra set of fins underneath to keep it from going all whackadoodle.  But that wasn't awesome enough for the guys at Vought... nope nope

See, what they decided was that going Mach 2.38 wasn't GOOD ENOUGH!  So they made it possible to go all Kerbal on it by leaving space for a rocket motor to be jammed up its bippy!  Ladies and gentlemen, I submit to you that there is nothing that screams awesome more than having a rocket jammed up your bippy. 

The XF8U-3 was awesomely developed to become the chief fighter for the US Navy, where it went head-to-head against the F4 Phantom II.  As it turned out, it was even hotter than the Phantom, and it regularly out-dogfighted that worthy plane.  However, that's all it could do, air-to-air, where the Phantom could do air-to-ground, too.  As a result, the Phantom became a legend.  But all was not lost!  Three of the five XF8U-3s wound up going into service with NASA, since they could do things that almost no other fighters of the time could do... even without a rocket jammed up its bippy. 

And for quite some time, the NASA planes would go out and pick on the Navy Phantoms in mock dogfights... and always, always hand them their lunch.  Until the Navy pilots asked NASA to please stop.

Awesome.  That's the SUPER CRUSADER, in a nutshell.  THAT'S why it looks as awesome as it does: because it was built out of 100% Grade A USDA Choice Awesome! 

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March 18, 2014



UPDATE: Kinda topic-deprived at the moment.  Got anything you want clarified?

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March 16, 2014

F1 Update!: Australia 2014

While there were clouds overhead at Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, there was nothing but blue sky and sunshine in the hearts of F1 fans everywhere.  As the purring herd formed up on the grid, one got the feeling that something exciting, something big, was about to happen at this, the first race of the new season.  Did it?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2014 Grand Prix of Australia!

*AND THEY'RE OFF... NOT SO FAST!:  The way a F1 race begins is relatively simple.  The cars perform a recon lap around the circuit and then takes their places on the starting grid.  When the last of the 22 cars comes to a halt and the field is deemed ready, race director Charlie Whiting presses a button on his console which begins an automated process: five red lights come on, one after another.  Once all five are illuminated, a computer-selected random amount of time passes before the lights go out.  When the lights wink off, the race begins.  Today, however, this didn't happen.  Instead, the cars formed up, and just as the first red light began to illuminate, a track marshal began frantically waving a yellow flag towards the back of the grid.  After a moment, Whiting pressed one of the other buttons on his console.

Two solid green lights and three flashing yellows designate an aborted start.  Everybody went around for another lap while the second Marussia of the day was rolled off the track to start from the pit lane (the first Marussia didn't start before the first recon lap).  So now we had to do it all over again.  Little did we know that trouble was brewing.

*AND THEY'RE OFF... WAIT, HOLD UP...:  This time, the red lights came on, stayed on for a decent amount of time, then extinguished, starting the 2014 F1 season with a loud-ish growl from 19 V6 turbo-powered engines, and a purr from the three cars starting from the pit lane.  In the run down to Turn 1, McLaren's rookie Kevin Magnussen had a good start, diving from the inside of the track to the outside in a calm, controlled fashion... or at least, that was the plan.  Instead, he wound up like this:

Amazingly, he didn't hit the wall, nor did the Ferrari of HWMNBN impale itself into the side of the McLaren.  Instead, he gathered the car up and was threatening Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes by the time they reached the first turn.  Further back in the field, though, F1U! favorite Gandalf Kobayashi was discovering that he had a problem.  It wasn't that he was driving a Caterham, having turned down an offer from Ferrari to drive sports cars for them, but that his Caterham had no brakes.  One can imagine how much of a disadvantage this could be for a F1 driver.  Fortunately, there were convenient methods of slowing down right in front of him... a Ferrari and the Willams of Felipe Massa.

Both Gandalf and Massa were out as soon as they stopped bouncing.  Up at the front of the race, though, things were proceeding apace... except that both Shiv Hamilton and Hannibal Vettel were complaining about their cars.  Hamilton's Mercedes just sounded wrong, and was being passed with ease.  Vettel's Red Bull didn't sound particularly unwell, but he was saying that he had "no K", meaning the new KERS-style hybrid system.  Unlike the old KERS unit, the new one can't be simply switched off; it's an integral part of the Power Unit.  The first lap ended with Nico Rosberg leading Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo, Magnussen, a fading Hamilton, Force India's Nico Hulkenberg, and HWMNBN.

*...AND THEN:  Two different radio calls left the F1U!'s coverage team stunned.  Both Mercedes and Red Bull called in their lead drivers (Hamilton and Vettel, respectively), telling them their races were over.  Hamilton was only running on five cylinders; Vettel was running on not much of anything at all.  Both expected-to-be contenders for the World Championship were out of the race by Lap 5.

*SAFETY CAR:  The race continued mostly as expected until around Lap 10, when the surviving Williams of Valteri Bottas, in a struggle for fifth with HWMNBN, gave the outside wall a nice stiff tap with the right-rear.  A few moments later, a massive stroke of luck befell the Finn.

Yes, luck indeed.  The whap broke the tire rim, allowing the failed tire to fall off altogether, as opposed to the more common "shred-and-flail" method of failure that tears up any nearby bodywork and often means the end of the victim's race.  While in this case Bottas lost nigh on 10 positions, he was at least able to continue with no obvious damage.  When the safety car was summoned so the tire carcass and associated debris could be recovered, the field was bunched back up, meaning it would be easier for the Williams to make an impact on the race.

*BACK TO WORK: To be honest, the rest of the run was something of an anticlimax.  Nico Rosberg owned this race from Turn 1, and after the restart he was putting a second per lap onto his lead over Ricciardo, who was only a second or two ahead of Kevin Magnussen, who had decent gap back to his teammate, Jenson Button.  The driver to watch, though, was definitely Bottas who quickly began to work his way back up the field.  by Lap 35, he was up to 5th place, though a pit stop dropped him back to eighth.  By the end of the race, though, he had managed to get back to 6th, the best finish for Williams since the 2012 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi.  Nearly a half-minute up the road, however, Rosberg had finished first, followed by Ricciardo, Magnussen, Button, and HWMNBN.  An easy and, really, an expected, victory for Mercedes, though a surprising result for Red Bull who just a few days ago were saying that they considered just finishing the race to be their goal.

*AND THEN: A few hours later came the news.  Daniel Ricciardo's RB10 had been found to be running a fuel flow sensor that had been brought before the FIA and found to be giving invalid results.  The FIA had told the team they couldn't use it and Red Bull used it anyway.  They were then warned before the race not to use it and were allowed to change it... and they used it anyway.  After the race, Ricciardo was duly excluded from the results, having his 2nd place finish stripped and promoting Button up to the third step of the podium.  Red Bull is appealing the decision.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Nico Rosberg should probably be given this, considering his lights-to-flag win, but instead we'll give it to Valteri Bottas for his gritty drive.  What would have happened if he hadn't've clonked the wall?

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  McLaren.  Last year was their worst season since 1980, with zero podiums and, indeed, never even looking like a threat for a podium.  Today?  A 2-3 finish, with their rookie driver on the higher step.  That's gotta bode well for the team from Woking.

:  This new category won't necessarily be the most important moment, or the most dramatic, or even the most obvious, moment of a particular race, but the one that sticks in the head of the F1U! Team.  Today's moment is brought to you by the front jackman / Mohel for Team McLaren's pit crew.

Ladies and gentlemen, the first circumcised F1 car.



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March 15, 2014

F1 Quals: Australia 2014

Before one can race at Australia, one must first qualify.  Sound easy?  NOT SO FAST!  Let's take a look at the provisional grid for the 2014 Grand Prix of Australia:

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Shiv Hamilton Mercedes 1:31.699 1:42.890 1:44.231
2 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:30.775 1:42.295 1:44.548
3 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:32.564 1:42.264 1:44.595
4 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 1:30.949 1:43.247 1:45.745
5 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:31.388 1:42.805 1:45.819
6 Jules Vergne STR-Renault 1:33.488 1:43.849 1:45.864
7 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:33.893 1:43.658 1:46.030
8 Kid Kvyat STR-Renault 1:33.777 1:44.331 1:47.368
9 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1:31.228 1:44.242 1:48.079
10 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1:31.601 1:43.852 1:48.147
11 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:31.396 1:44.437
12 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:32.439 1:44.494
13 Hannibal Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:31.931 1:44.668
14 Adrian F'n Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 1:33.673 1:45.655
15 Gandalf Kobayashi Caterham-Renault 1:34.274 1:45.867
16 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1:34.141 1:47.293
17 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 1:34.293

18 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 1:34.794

19 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1:35.117

20 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 1:35.157

21 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:36.993

22 Williams Maldonado Lotus-Renault No time

Q1 107% Time

Let's get the massive one out of the way: reigning four-time World Drivers Champion Hannibal Vettel didn't make it out of Q2, much to the delight of the rain-and-Fosters-soaked Australian fans.  Meanwhile, his Red Bull teammate, Australian Daniel Ricciardo, managed to get his car on the front row.  Eyewitnesses later said that there was blood trickling from the doors of the Red Bull mobile home, accompanied by loud screams of Germanic fury.  These claims have yet to be verified.

Yes, it rained during Quals, starting towards the end of Q1, and not really stopping.  I believe I called these new cars "twitchy".  Boy, I didn't know what I was talking about... you haven't seen twitchy until you see them in the rain.  Yeeeeeeeee-haw!

The drive of the day honors goes to rookie Kevin Magnussen, who needs a nickname badly.  His first time in Quals, his first time driving the Australian circuit, and the first time running the McLaren in the rain, and he puts it on the second row?  Spiffy job, that.

A big thumbs-up to the returning Gandalf Kobayashi, getting his Caterham into Q2... something that only happened ONCE last season.  Meanwhile, neither Lotus made it out of Q1, and Williams Maldonado didn't manage to set a time at all.  Dear lord, they're going to suck so hard this year...

So we've got a scrambled field, partially from rain, mostly from new rules.  It's gonna make the race ridiculously fun, or just terrible, one of the two.  Of course, the F1U! team will be all over it, beginning at 1230am Sunday.  Writeup sometime after that... we're not as young as we used to be, after all.  See ya then!

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March 14, 2014

Horrible News!

I have it on good authority that the legendary Rio Rainbow Gate! has been released and has already been shipped to customers with standing pre-orders at Bob's place

To make matters worse, I've been informed that mine was the first copy processed and out the door.  I've been blogging for what, eight-almost-nine years now.  I've written about a hundred different topics, from Formula 1 to WW2, and yet I  have this terrible feeling that RRG! is going to be my legacy.

There are, I suppose, worse things to be known for.  I didn't collectivize the Soviet agriculture industry, nor did I enforce the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, for example.  No, I only  blogged about an anime series.  Is that so bad?  Is it?  IS IT???

Oh.  Right.  Holographic Space Sharks.  You're right, it is that bad.  I weep for what I have inflicted upon humanity.

Sorry 'bout that, everybody.

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F1 Practice: Australia 2014 P2

What we had in P2 was quite a bit of P1 redux, with one major difference.  This time around, we actually saw both Red Bulls on track for 30+ laps, perhaps for the first time this preseason, and they were both quick.  Not as fast as last year, but they were putting in some good times.  The same can't be said for the other Renault-powered teams, however. 

Neither Caterham or Pastor Maldonado's Lotus set a timed lap at all.  Lettuce Grosjean... well, you can see how he did.  The Toro Rossos were... meh, but that's normal for them, isn't it?  No, on the whole, Friday belonged to the Mercedes-powered cars, led by the Factory team.  Other than Hamilton's sensor issue in P1, the two Silver Arrows have pretty much owned the entire lead-up to the race.

Will that domination continue?  People were saying earlier that Mercedes could win this race by two laps... that's pretty clearly an exaggeration, but they do appear to be the odds-on favorites.  But there are bigger concerns out there right now.

For example, Charlie Whiting, the race director for Formula 1, was saying that many of the teams haven't been able to practice race starts yet.  He's also gone on record saying that the 107% Rule is essentially out the window for this race, and they're not even sure if ANYBODY will finish the race.  Eep.

This should be a fascinating race, clearly... one way or the other.  Either it's going to be high farce, or it'll be stunningly dramatic.  It'll certainly be entertaining!

Quals early Saturday morning!

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March 13, 2014

F1 Practice: Australia 2014 P1

There are two ways a Friday Practice 1 session can go.  Either you get a lot of running, with every driver out on circuit pounding out laps while teams try to shake down the car, get everything shipshape as soon as possible, or you get 11 teams apparently sitting on their hands, cars up on jacks, drivers taking naps in the back of their garage.  You would think that at the first race weekend of a new season with a whole raft of rules changes that you'd get the former type of P1 session over the latter.

Not so much.  Four drivers didn't turn a timed lap, and Lettuce Grosjean never even left the pits with engine problems.  Most of the rest turned around 25 laps, though there were quite a few who didn't reach double digits.  Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes made it about 400 meters before it stopped on track with an apparent engine failure (it turned out to be a sensor issue, so he'll be back for P2).  When cars were on track, they looked squirmy and touchy.  And rightfully so: the cars actually have torque now.  It looks like the cars are fishtailing out of every slow corner... just thinking about accelerating seems to send them sideways.


P2 coming up in a bit... I'll watch most of it, maybe the whole thing, but the writeup will come Friday morning, like as not.

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March 12, 2014

Wow, That's Kinda...Um...

Remember that story I mentioned a few days ago, the one I couldn't get out of my head, the one that I knew I had to get written?

It sucks.

Oh, don't get me wrong, the concept is excellent, top notch, perfect for a short-story.  I've just discovered that I'm not entirely sure where to go with it.  It isn't flowing the way the last one did.  It's coming off really stiff, and while that's somewhat appropriate for one of the characters, I'm not managing to make it interesting at the same time.

Part of me wants to just bury it under a pile of kittylitter and leave it.  Another part wants me to keep plugging away on it.  Then there's the part that wants me to release what I've completed so far just to see how many of my readers go running for the hills, noses hld delicately betwixt thumb and forefinger.

We'll see.

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March 10, 2014

F1 on NBCSN: Australia 2014!

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, libbets and bunnymen, welcome to the 2014 Formula 1 season!  The past few years have been a little... shall we say "dull"?... but this season should prove to be a little bit different.  We'll get to that.  But first, we need to look at where we begin.  It isn't officially a tradition, but Australia may as well be the home of the first race of the season.  What definitely is a tradition is that I now show you the track map of this week's circuit... and here we are:

Melbourne.  Australia's cultural capital.  Home of the style of dance known as Melbourne Shuffle, the birthplace of Australian film and television, Aussie Rules Football, and the country's oldest and largest public art museum.  It's also the location of Albert Park, a public park turned into a world-class racetrack for one weekend a year.  As I've mentioned in years past, it's also the perfect place for a F1 season to begin.  Consider: it's a fast, but not too fast, circuit, with a nice mix of both quick and slow corners.  It's not particularly hard on tires, nor is it particularly difficult for the driver to cope with.  Air temperatures are usually right at the point you want them for a modern F1 car, except when it rains.  When it does rain, the storms are rarely the type that will completely derail a session (like you can get at Spa, for example).  No, the circuit at Albert Park is pretty much the best track on the calendar to start a season with.

Which is important this season, even moreso than normal.  That's because of the raft of rules changes that came down the pike for this season, the most obvious of which is the new engine.  Gone are the dentist-drill 18000rpm V8s of the past decade.  In their place we now have a 1.6 liter turbo-powered V6 hybrid engine at 15000rpm.  The hybrid part is interesting... previously we had the Kinetic Energy Recovery System, or KERS, a battery pack that gave the cars about 80hp for six seconds per lap.  KERS has now been replaced by ERS-K, a waste-heat recovery device that will provide up to 160hp for 33 seconds/lap.  Because of the way this system works, the rear brakes are now "brake by wire", instead of a direct physical linkage.  Reportedly, some teams are having problem with this technology, but we'll find out about that later this week.  On the whole, the changes seem to have been to the benefit for Williams and have hurt Red Bull... people are already declaring that Seb Vettel won't win the championship this year.  I won't go that far, but Australia could go a long way towards telling us what's going to happen this season!

Fortunately for us, the good folks at NBCSN will be doing their level best to get us up to speed and fast!  Here's their broadcast schedule:


Practice 1: 830p - 10p live
Practice 2: 1230a - 2a live
Quals: 1a - 230a live
Grand Prix of Australia: 1230a - 3a live

Here's the good news... this week is Spring Break at Duck U.  As a result, the Duck U Bookstore will be closing at 1pm on Thursday and staying closed until Monday morning.  That's right, the F1U! team will have the entire weekend free to concentrate on the race!  It's been a while since we're found a F1 season to be this intriguing, so we'll be hanging on every rev this race!

We'll see you then, right here!

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March 09, 2014

In The Pipeline

I've been oddly silent the past few days.  To some of you, this would be a good thing: "thank Víðarr for small blessings," you say.  Others amongst you are probably thinking something along the lines of "Wonderduck's working on something that's taking a long time... there are many ways that can play out, and very few of them are good."  There might even be a couple of you that are wondering just where the hell the decoys are.

The truth of the matter is that I do have a couple of things in the works.  Of course, next Sunday is the first F1 race of the season, which means that we'll return to that routine beginning on Monday or Tuesday.  Then there's a piece of fiction that's stuck in my head begging to be written... when I realized that I'm thinking about it in the shower, it's a pretty good sign that I've got to get it written up.  Then there's installment #2 of the Eva 2.22 writeup that's gotta be done as well.

If this week goes the way I hope, at least two of those will be completed, maybe all three.  If it doesn't, well, the F1 stuff'll be done.

See you soon!

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March 06, 2014

F1 Pr0n: Williams-Martini FW 36

Martini is more than just a drink, it's a company... perhaps you've heard of Martini & Rossi?  Makers of the world's best selling vermouth?  Yeah, that Martini!  They've also long been a player in motorsports.  They've often sponsored teams, including in Formula 1... and they're back.  It was quietly announced last week that Williams F1 and Martini Racing have joined forces for the 2014 season, becoming Williams-Martini.  F1 fans with a sense of history eagerly awaited the reveal of the new livery... and today, our patience was rewarded.

Holy crap, that's nice.  The Martini stripes are just classy as hell, and the white... well, we haven't had a white car on the grid since the Brawn in 2009, and I think it's long overdue.  Just look at it!  Just imagine what that's gonna look like under the lights at Singapore!

Yup, that's just flat-out purty.  I don't even mind the nose!

We're a week away from Practice 1 at Australia... can you imagine?

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