March 31, 2015


I actually find myself at loose ends as to what to write about right now.  Nothing is really leaping out at me... anybody got any burning questions you want answered with a post?  This is the perfect time to ask me!

Picture unrelated.  Nice, but unrelated.

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March 30, 2015

F1 Update: Malaysia 2015

We here at F1Update! want to try something new.  Our usual "bullet point style" of coverage has gotten pretty darn tiring to us since it really feels like we're just saying the same things over and over again each race.  So instead, we're going to be a little more... chatty, shall we say?  Possibly less informative, too, but nobody says we're going to stick with this style.  So THIS is your F1Update! for the 2015 Grand Prix of Malaysia... relaxed version!

As we put this together, the race was over more than a half-day ago.  Many of you will have already learned that, for the first time since Spain in May of 2013, a Ferrari driver stood on the top step of the podium.  Sebastian Vettel, in only his second race for the team from Maranello, beat the twin Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg by roughly nine and 13 seconds, respectively.  The other Red Car didn't do too badly either as Kimi Raikkonen brought his Ferrari across the finish line in fourth after an incident-plagued race.  This was Vettel's first race win since Brazil in 2013.

Many pundits are saying that Ferrari's performance today means that they'll be challenging the Silver Arrows for the rest of the season, and that's entirely possible.  There are a few indicators that suggest that this may not be the case.  First off, the nature of Sepang International Circuit itself.  Malaysia is incredibly hot and humid when it's not raining (then it's hot, humid and raining).  At one point during race weekend the surface temperature of the track was over 160°F. (that's nearly £85 for those of you overseas readers!), much hotter than anybody could have possibly expected.  As a result, the Pirelli tires were suffering from blisters and higher-than-normal degradation.  There was no reason to complain, as it wasn't overly bad and everybody had the same situation anyway.  When it came to the race, Ferrari made their tires work better longer than anybody else.  It seems that the SF15-T is gentle on its tires... or gentler, at least.  Perhaps having Vettel behind the wheel helps as well.  In any case, the Red Car of the four-time world champion was able to run the race on two pit stops, while the two Mercedes had to make three... and that's the difference, right there.

Of course, there's always more to the story.  One could also say that Mercedes lost the race during Q1 and Q2 on Saturday.  With heavy rains bearing down on the circuit, the German team decided to do something they almost never do: burn a set of the softer, Option, tires during Q1 to make sure they got through to Q2.  They stayed on the Option tire again in the few laps they were able to turn before le deluge came down.  Arguably, Mercedes could have stayed true to form and run the harder Prime tire in Q1 and still progressed to the next phase of Qualifying.  Why is this important?  Because for Hamilton's last stint, when he was going to have fresher tires than Vettel and thus had the best chance to catch him, the team was forced to put him on the Prime tires because the Options they had remaining would never have lasted until the end of the race.  The Options were somewhere around 1.0 to 1.5 seconds/lap faster than the Primes, and he pitted on Lap 40 of a 56 lap race.  Hamilton finished just over 8.6 second behind... you do the math.


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March 29, 2015

Kantai Collection Ep12

So here we are.  The culmination of three months worth of Wednesdays, all coming down to this.  It's been a long and surprisingly entertaining run, going all the way back to January 7th.  Along the way, there's been a Cthulhu summoning, incontinent shipgrannies, a deep and kinda disturbing love for Mutsu has grown, and more comments than any two Series Writeups combined.  Seems Kantai Collection struck a chord with some folks, good, bad, or otherwise.  I've had long discussions about the series offline, seen more than the show's share of bullhockey get spouted in online forums... cheeseandrice, the historical misconceptions I've seen about what actually occurred during the real Pacific War have been enough to make me loathe the American education system.  Despite all that, the series itself has been consistently entertaining, if somewhat pointlessly fluffy at times.  Well, we're not making Haibane Renmei here after all.  Hell, we're not even making K-On!

Which is a good thing.  The show always knew what it was, though maybe not always what it wanted to be.  Historic melodrama?  Comedy?  Lightweight fanservice vehicle?  Tragedy?  All of the above at the same time?  Or just Kantai Collection?  Let's go with that.  That's good enough, I believe.  And if it isn't going to win any "Best of 2015" awards, well, that's okay too.  So the end is nigh, how will it all go down?  So to speak, of course... "going down" isn't a phrase you want to use when it involves warships.  Or maybe it is, if you're the type of person who thinks of anime "that way".  If you are... um... ew.

We pick up pretty much exactly where we left off at the end of Episode 11: the Battle of Midway has begun, and history is doing Bad Things to our Shipgirls, which is what you'd expect.  Three of the four carriers have been hit, only Hiryu seems to be able to fire arrows, there's an Abyssal surface warfare fleet closing in, and Akagi is in dispair as an anti-shipping bomb is headed right 'twixt her eyes.  One can rail against fate, but it seems one cannot defeat it.  And then... ...I keep getting distracted.  The past two hours have been spent watching WarThunder Fail videos, random AMVs, and falling asleep at my desk.  So I'm going to take a nap and pick this up when I'm done. 

I'm back.  Six hours of nap later, I'm back.  If you're wondering why this writeup has taken as long as it has, there you go.  Where were we?  Oh yes... bombs fall, everybody dies.


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March 28, 2015

F1 Quals: Malaysia 2015

Allegedly they've heard of sunlight at Sepang.  If you just went by today, however, there's no way that's actually possible, as the session began with low, heavy clouds.  If I saw clouds like that here at Pond Central on a Summer day, I'd be heading for the laundry room as fast as I could go.  But did it actually rain?  Here's the provisional grid for the 2015 Grand Prix of Malaysia:

P Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:39.269 1:41.517 1:49.834
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:39.814 1:39.632 1:49.908
3 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:39.374 1:39.377 1:50.299
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:40.504 1:41.085 1:51.541
5 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull Racing 1:40.546 1:41.665 1:51.951
6 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:40.793 1:41.430 1:51.981
7 Felipe Massa Williams 1:40.543 1:41.230 1:52.473
8 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:40.303 1:41.209 1:52.981
9 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:40.249 1:40.650 1:53.179
10 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:40.340 1:41.748 1:53.261
11 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:40.415 1:42.173  
12 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:40.361 1:42.198  
13 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:40.830 1:43.023  
14 Sergio Perez Force India 1:41.036 1:43.469  
15 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:39.814 1:43.701  
16 Felipe Nasr Sauber 1:41.308    
17 Jenson Button McLaren 1:41.636    
18 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:41.746    
Roberto Merhi Manor 1:46.677    
Will Stevens
No Time

First things first: the 107% time was 1:46:217.  Neither Manor driver brought his vehicle in under that time, so they race at the Steward's permission... which was granted, as both drivers managed to display enough pace during practice to claim they manage it.  Assuming Manor can find and fix the gremlin that infected Will Stevens' car between Practice 3 and Quals, we should have a full grid on Sunday!

And what an interesting grid it is, too.  Of course it rained in Malaysia; it always does.  The teams had enough time for one or two flying laps before the heavens opened up and dumped a substantial portion of the Malacca Strait onto Sepang International Circuit.  Lewis Hamilton was nearly caught by this, as he had problems getting his Mercedes started.  Because most only got one shot, one bad twitch could cost you the session, as Kimi Raikkonen learned.  After the dry laps were in the books, there was no point in going out again.

Q3 was delayed nearly 40 minutes as the Powers That Be waited for the water to stop bucketing down.  This it duly did, but the track was still sodden enough for Intermediate tires (and some thought Full Wets) to be required for the entire session.  In the process, we may have discovered that, at least in the wet, Ferrari can hang with the Mercs.  In the dry, the Silver Arrows still have the clear advantage, though it seems to have been cut somewhat.

We'll see what the race will bring us early Sunday Morning.  No idea when I'll manage the writeup, as I've a couple of other things that need to be dealt with on Sunday.

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March 27, 2015

You Stupid Idiot.

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March 25, 2015

Kantai Collection: Good News, Bad News

The good news: a second season of Kantai Collection was announced today, just before the final episode of S1 aired.

The bad news: it seems that crunchyroll got their copy of the episode very very late, and thus it has yet to air here.

Allow me to repeat my prior warning: any spoilers of the episode of any sort will result in the offender being banned.  Period.  I want to watch this one with no hints or suggestions of any sort.  Even saying "you'll love it, Wonderduck" isn't welcome.

So just don't, okay?  Cool.

UPDATE: I've finally seen the final episode of S1.  That was about as good as we could have hoped for, save for the "rocks fall everybody dies" Bad End.  Strong way to end the season.  Writeup to begin Thursday morning.

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March 24, 2015

F1 on NBCSN: Malaysia

With a cloud of embarrassment hanging over its head, F1 bids adieu to Australia and made its way to the next destination on the World Tour: Malaysia, and the Sepang International Circuit contained therein.  Let's take a look at said circuit's track map:

Some things never change.  Since 1999, Malaysia has been dominated by the two "forever straights", separated only by a tight, low-speed hairpin.  In effect this was Hermann Tilke's premiere track design, though he did technically design the A1-Ring (now the Red Bull Ring) in Austria first.  It's already full of what would be come his signature tics, like the aforementioned long straights, lots of rhythm-destroying turns, and an appalling lack of feel for a racetrack.  All of these would carry over to his later designs, with only Turkey truly standing as an acceptable layout. 

Well, what's done is done.  The circuits are here, they aren't going away anytime soon, so this is what we've got.  What do often do get in Malaysia is rain.  Lots and lots of rain.  If we're lucky, we'll get rain this weekend.  According to the forecast, there's showers scheduled on race morning, with thunderstorms in the afternoon.  The question, of course, is if "the afternoon" is during the race itself.  We'll see.

In injured driver news, both Valterri Bottas (back) and HWMNBN (concussion) are hopeful for returns this weekend.  The Finn will do the car self-extraction test on Thursday, and if he's capable of that, he'll be driving.  The Spaniard, however, went through a battery of tests this weekend, and will undergo a final medical assessment from the FIA on Thursday as well.  I'd expect to see them both racing on Sunday. 

Finally, here's the TV schedule for NBCSN's coverage this weekend:

P2: 100a - 300a live
Quals: 400a - 530a live
2015 Grand Prix of Malaysia: 130a - 400a live

As always, times are in Pond Central.  Also as always, NBCSN's scheduling is brought to us by Zap2It, which means it's frequently wrong, and constantly impossible to read.

And, completely off-topic, here's this year's World Endurance Racing entry from Audi:

Yes, please, very much so.

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March 23, 2015

Kantai Collection Ep11

So it has come to this.  Midway.  We've known all along that it must be the climax, and after all the waiting, it's here.  But will it be a repeat of history as we know it, or will the shipgirls make their own way through the timey-wimey stuff?  Only the Production Staff knows for sure, and they ain't tellin' yet.  It's a shame some aren't giving the show a chance... I suspect we've got some surprises ahead, and the production staff has earned themselves enough credit to be allowed to take their shot.  I'm still betting against the historical ending, but it would be stunning if they pulled it off.

Last episode ended with Fubuki getting her remodel and being named as Akagi's personal escort.  We begin this episode with a... flashback?  Wha?

Akagi is practically dragging Kaga as explosions occur all around them.  Both are badly damaged, quivers empty, flight decks broken, stockings torn, hair a complete mess.  It's clear Operation AF has gone terribly, terribly wrong.  History repeats, it seems.

Only Hiryu is left standing, while the killing blow for Soryu is about to land.  There's nothing to be done for it.  Abyssal fighters crowd the skies, each looking to drop a carrier, even a damaged one.  Finally, the time has come.  History repeats, it seems.

Akagi gets a quick glimpse of her impending doom.  Well, I suppose we know how this is all going to go down now, don't we?  What's more, her final words are "I'm sorry.  Please scuttle me."

I discussed the problems with this tableau back in the Ep02 writeup.  Now we get to have it in context.... and with the addition of torpedo trails in the water, to boot.  Just as they hit, the screen goes white.  Shortest episode ever!


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March 20, 2015

No Joy

I'll be fine soon enough.

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March 18, 2015


Some of you with memories longer than that of goldfish may remember that I had a job interview a couple of weeks ago.  This was the company where I had to take a Wonderlic test, and they discovered that I had a giant pulsating brain.

Remarkably accurate representation of Wonderduck
After the interview they said that they'd let me know "early next week."  After it became LATE "next week", I e-mailed the company HR person to see where the matter stood.  The reply was pretty much exactly what I expected: "We're still trying to decide, we'll let you know."  Well, my thinking went, I've done my part, all I can do is wait.  So wait I did. 

The supposed start date of March 16th came and went.  I wasn't terribly surprised, as they had said that they could push it back if they didn't have enough qualified applicants.  However, I'd be lying if I thought this an encouraging sign.  Well, whatever.  Today, as I was getting dressed to have lunch with the folks, I received an e-mail from the company.  In effect, they were scared of  my giant pulsating brain and decided to hire dullards instead.

 I have been told in the past that I'm too smart for my own good.  This is the first time that's really the case.  The intelligent part of me knew this was coming, it's not a surprise, so on and so forth.  It still really, really hurts.  I wanted this one badly, and nope, not good enough.

I can't even get a data-entry job.  WTF, life?

UPDATED:  Since I applied for the job through CareerMonster or one of those jobsites, I get e-mails from the company occasionally saying "here are some positions you might find interesting."  It's just after midnight, and one just popped up.  They've got six more openings.  So much for keeping my application on file, huh?

Remarkably accurate representation of the company and Wonderduck.

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March 16, 2015

Kantai Collection Ep10 (updated)

So I'm running a little late this week, sorry about that.  What with my other hobby starting this week, I sorta had to shuffle the writeup a little farther down the priority ladder than normal.  It's okay, though... if I had to, this was the episode to delay.  Not that it wasn't important, heavens no, but it's hardly The Most Important Episode Ever.  Which is why I'm not giving it my usual 100% treatment this week.  Hey, I'M not the one looking to get a major remodel, that's Fubuki's job.  I'd be satisfied with a haircut and a closet full of clean towels... I've really got to get to a laundromat, but that means going out into the public eye, y'know?  Before I get into that, though, let's get going on the Episode 10 of Kantai Collection!

We begin with shots of Foobie training and a not-a-flashback to the end of last episode, when Our Heroine is told she's being remodeled.  Nagato tells her that the Admiral specifically said that her upgraded form was going to be essential for the upcoming battle, and I'd like to say that I called that at the end of last ep's writeup.  Go me.  Sure, it was like hitting a batting practice fastball, but I still called it.  I'm in a win-win situation here.  Either they go with Foobie Saves The Day, or they go with History Repeating.  I'd enjoy either result, though the bloodbath would take guts indeed.  Back to current day...

....and Nagato's got a problem.  See, she's got the Admiral's notebook of what to do for the coming battle, but the most important piece of information, the location, is in code.  It just says to "strike Abyssal base AF," but not which base AF is!  There are three possibilities: north, the Aleutians; South, someplace less-than-obvious to my history-laden mind, and Central.  Nagato is doing recon-by-fire, sending small fleets out to each location to see which one gets shot at the most.  By her logic, the one that's most strongly defended is AF.

Fleets have already been sent to North and South.  The newly reconstituted Torpedo Squadron Three gets the Central area, which contains island MI.  Orders are to get shot at, but not draw the entire Abyssal fleet down on themselves.



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March 15, 2015

F1 Update: Australia 2015

Some might call what happened in Melbourne a farce.  Others could characterize it as an example of everything that's wrong with Formula 1.  We here at F1U! look at it and wonder what an Australian hot dog would have for toppings.  THIS is your F1Update! for the 2015 Grand Prix of Australia!

*SECOND VERSE:  Stop us if you've heard this one before.  Lights go out, Lewis Hamilton runs away and is next seen by TV cameras with two laps left as the announcers wax rhapsodic about the level of domination both he and Mercedes displayed during the race.  Meanwhile, Nico Rosberg ran a race just as good as Hamilton's, only blemished by not being able to catch the reigning World Champion despite similar equipment.  That Rosberg was over 35 seconds ahead of the third place finisher should tell you everything you need to know about how the race went.

*THAT WAS UNEXPECTED:  Okay, first and second were pretty much locks.  But what about the rest of the race?  From all appearances, if it wasn't for Mercedes we might have a helluva season on our hands.  The five spots from third through seventh were claimed by five different teams... in order: Ferrari, Williams, Sauber (!), Red Bull, and Force India.  The first team to double up was Sauber (!!) in 8th, followed by a sixth team, Toro Rosso in 9th.  That's a great distribution, and one that's unfortunately not going to repeat itself. 

*WHAT?  WHY NOT?:  Because you don't often have races that end with 11 cars running, that's why.  Bad enough that Manor DNQ'd and we were beginning the race with 18 cars.  Then news came down that Williams' Valterri Bottas had a back injury and couldn't race, dropping us to 17.  As if that wasn't enough, McLaren's HWMNBN'DSI had his engine grenade itself on the sedate drive to the pre-race grid.  A minute later, the Red Bull of Daniil Kyvat rolled to a stop, his gearbox transformed from a precisely tuned instrument to a handful of metal shavings and hate.  We were down to 15.  By the end of the first lap, Lotus' Pastor Maldonado was in the wall, aided in his destruction by Sauber's Felipe Nasr.  The other Lotus driver, Lettuce Grosjean, pitted at the end of Lap 1, his engine performing like the team installed the turbocharger backwards, and the fans in Melbourne were watching 13 cars race.  On Lap 34, Junior Verstappen's debut race came to an end with a high-pitched report of "smoke in the cockpit" and a plume behind him, and then there were 12.  A few laps later, Ferrari let Mumbles Raikkonen leave the pits with one of his tires attached incompletely, ending his day just a few turns out of the pit lane.  Eleven.  The slowest car on the grid, Jenson Button's McLaren, very nearly earned a point by not failing, despite ending the race two laps down.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Felipe Nasr, Sauber.  Last year, Sauber had the worst season in their history, scoring zero points and nearly having to pack it in for lack of funds.  This year, they're racing two rookies because they brought huge checkbooks to the table.  Well, one of the rookies showed he's not afraid to hang with the big names of the sport, finishing fifth ahead of Daniel Riccardo and just behind Felipe Massa.  Oh, and coincidentally earning 10 points for Sauber.  Not bad, kid... now do it again!

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  Well, Mercedes of course.  I could give it to Sauber for getting both drivers in the points after last year's debacle, or McLaren for getting one car to the end of the race (the longest they've managed to have a car survive in 2015), but Merc made it clear that this is their season to lose.

*MOMENT OF THE RACE: After Pastor Maldonado's Lotus was installed into the wall between Turns 1 and 2 on the first lap, the Safety Car was summoned for a few laps.  On the restart, leader Lewis Hamilton was granted a boon from the Restart Gods.  It only felt like he had a three second head-start as they crossed the line; in reality it took him the entire rest of the lap to open up a 2-1/2 second lead over his teammate.  If there was any question that Hamilton wanted the win today, that perfectly timed restart dispelled it.


"It's nice to see Ferrari back on the podium, we'll have a good scrap with them the rest of the way... hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaahaahahahahahaahahah!" - Lewis Hamilton

"It's a long season with lots of races to go.  I can still beat Lewis." - Nico Rosberg (note: hahahahahahahahahahahahahaahahahahaa!)

"I drank the champagne on the podium and I saved some for the guys in the team, because they told me they like it a lot." - Seb Vettel (note: real quote)

"I believe that Mercedes isn't giving us the same engine they have in their car.  They're doing it to help Ferrari.  Why?  Aliens.  I'm not wearing any pants.  There are no grapes in grapefruit." - Felipe Massa

"I am very happy with fifth position in my first Formula 1 race.  And that I'm single, young and a F1 driver.  My life is perfect right now." - Felipe Nasr

"Meat pies, vegemite and tim-tams for everybody!" - Daniel Riccardo

"I said something boring and generic to commemorate my 7th place finish." - Nico Hulkenberg

"Bet Giedo van de Garde wishes he coughed up more money now, huh?" - Marcus Ericsson

"It's 'Carlos Sainz', not 'Horatio Sanz.'  I just want to make that clear." - Horatio Sanz

"I was faster than Button." - Sergio Perez

"Today was a good day.  No, really!  We got a lot of data, we didn't explode or electrocute anybody, so it's a good day.  And we were almost in the points." - Jenson Button

Two weeks from now is Malaysia... see you then!

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March 14, 2015

Australia 2015 Runup UPDATED

This is ridiculous.

First came the news that Valterri Bottas is out.  As mentioned earlier, he had a back injury that was probably suffered during Q2 when he ran wide out of a turn and hit a rough patch in the grass.  News from the track is that the injury has limited his flexibility that he cannot get out of the car under the FIA-mandated time.  For example, if he was in a crash and the car caught on fire, he'd be unable to get out before his firesuit would be compromised.  Well, that makes sense, safety first.

Then just a few minutes ago we saw the McLaren of HWMNBN'DSI die on the side of the track on its way to the grid, vast amounts of smoke emanating from the Honda lump in the back.  So slow and unreliable, great combination that!

As if that wasn't enough, Daniil Kvyat's Red Bull rolled to a stop on his way out, though without the mosquito repellant.  It looked like it just shut off, though we're now hearing that it's a gearbox problem.

So this means that we'll be beginning the 2015 Australian Grand Prix with fifteen cars.  Joy.

More if events warrant.

One lap in, and we're down to thirteen cars, as both Lotuses are out... one to accident, one apparently down to a trashed transmission.  McLaren might still get a point... only three to go!

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The Video Is Pretty Decent, Too.

While we're waiting for the Australian Grand Prix to start, I wanted to drop this in your lap.

When this first began, I just started grinning.  By the end of it, I was ready to listen to it again, this time with the volume turned waaaaaay up, cigarette lighter ignited in my hand and my head banging.  So I sent it to friend GrayDuck, my brother in feathers, to see what he thought.  His response was similarly enthusiastic, if totally incoherent from excitement.  So now I share it with you.  Enjoy.

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F1 Quals: Australia 2015

If it's Saturday in Melbourne, it must be qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix!  How will this season go?  We should begin to get an idea after this, the first time it all really counts... let's take a look at the grid:

P Name Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:28.586 1:26.894 1:26.327
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:28.906 1:27.097 1:26.921
3 Felipe Massa Williams 1:29.246 1:27.895 1:27.718
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:29.307 1:27.742 1:27.757
5 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:29.754 1:27.807 1:27.790
6 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:29.641 1:27.796 1:28.087
7 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:29.788 1:28.679 1:28.329
8 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:29.597 1:28.601 1:28.510
9 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus 1:29.537 1:28.589 1:28.560
10 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:29.847 1:28.726 1:29.480
11 Felipe Nasr Sauber 1:30.430 1:28.800  
12 Junior Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:29.248 1:28.868  
13 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull 1:30.402 1:29.070  
14 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:29.651 1:29.208  
15 Sergio Perez Force India 1:29.990 1:29.209  
16 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:31.376    
17 Jenson Button McLaren 1:31.422    
18 HWMNBN'DSI McLaren 1:32.037    
DNS Will Stevens Manor No time    
DNS Roberto Merhi Manor No time    

Yeeeesh.  As if last season wasn't bad enough, Mercedes is picking up 2015 right where they left off in 2014, with another front-row lockout.  Polesitter is a full 1.4 seconds ahead of the first non-Mercedes challenger, Williams' Felipe Massa, and about a half-second ahead of his teammate Nico Rosberg.  The two Ferraris had relatively dull (but good!) Quals sessions.  Meanwhile, Red Bull pretty much wants to strangle engine manufacturer Renault.  First, Riccardo had his first engine (of four for the year!) die during Practice, then his second is "practically undriveable", full of weird holes in the engine mapping.  That's why teammate Daniil Kvyat is so far down the grid, and why Ricciardo nearly missed Q3.

Sauber has to be relieved that Felipe Nasr qual'd 11th, considering the nightmare they've put up with this week.  Indeed, he was looking like he'd go through into Q3 until Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz bumped him out at the last moment.  Too, Force India has to be pleased with their results in Quals.  Sure, they aren't high up the grid, but they had very little track time with their new car and it's looking to be solidly reliable.  Particularly early, reliability is almost as good as speed: if the car can't finish a race, it doesn't matter how fast it is.  However, a reliable car can evolve to become quick.  A special tip o' the cap to Junior Verstappen, who became the youngest person to qualify for a F1 race today at the ripe old age of 17.  Seven-frickin'-teen.

Really, the only team that has any reason to be unhappy is McLaren.  Sure, Manor didn't manage to get their cars running at all this weekend (reportedly it took four hours on Friday just to get the car's flashing rain light to function with the new software), but a month ago the team didn't exist and their pieces were being sold away.  Just being in Australia as a team, having a chance to get running, is a win for Manor.  But McLaren is a different story.  In Q1 their best time was set on the soft-rubbered Option tire.  It was nearly three seconds behind Lewis Hamilton's fastest time in Q1 on the slower medium Prime tire.  They were the slowest through the speed traps, about 10mph behind the fastest chassis, the Williams.  They've not even done a full race distance in the new chassis... hell, they've not even done as much as 13 laps at once.  To call this a disaster for the legendary McLaren/Honda combination is perhaps understating the case.  While there's plenty of time for the car to improve, this start makes one wonder how they can.

Late news from Melbourne!  After Quals on Saturday, Valtteri Bottas was taken to hospital suffering back pains.  They actually began during the Quals session, but he drove through them.  He and the team await the diagnosis, and currently his drive on Sunday is in doubt.  If he can't go, the team will not be allowed to replace him, and we'll have a 17-car grid for the race.

Race is late-night Saturday/early Sunday here at The Pond... see ya in the AM.

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March 13, 2015

F1 Practice 1+2 Thoughts And Sauber: Australia 2015

First off, news has come down that Giedo van de Garde has temporarily withdrawn his various motions and notions, so as to allow Sauber F1 to actually race this weekend.  This also has the side-effect of allowing Sauber Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn to leave Australia once the weekend is over.  There are two things behind this, undoubtedly.  First, the lawyers on both sides must have come to some sort of agreement regarding compensation for the aggrieved driver.  The wonder of it all is how the cash-strapped team could guarantee anything along those lines.  Second, it became crystal clear that van de Garde would never drive for the team.  Oh, make no mistake, the courts could have said "yes he is" and he'd be named... but when he walked into the team paddock yesterday for his seat fitting, every team mechanic walked out.  Every.  Single.  One.  I don't care what the judges and lawyers and bailiffs say... if your mechanics hate you, you aren't racing.  You wouldn't make it to the end of the pit lane before breaking down.  So there you go: Sauber is racing in Australia.  More on this to come, clearly.

As far as the two practice sessions went, there are four conclusions to be drawn:

1) Mercedes will do it again.  They were a second clear of the next best teams, and they weren't even trying hard.  Expect a repeat of 2014, except maybe more wins.

2) Ferrari might just be back.  From all appearances, the SF15-T is a much better drive than last year's F14T.  It might be on-par with the Red Bulls, which means it could, in theory, be contesting for podiums and wins.  In theory.  In practice, with three teams (Red Bull, Williams and Ferrari) jousting for second-best, someone's gonna lose out.

3) Expect nothing from McLaren.  The team is having serious problems with their new Honda engines.  Combined with faults of some kind, the MP4-30 had Jenson Button saying that they might do well to start 18th on race day.  There are only 20 cars, and two of them are Manor chassis that have yet to turn a wheel in practice or in anger.  That's how bad it is for McLaren right now.

4) Engine problems may doom everybody.  Daniel Ricciardo's Red Bull had an engine change after P1 yesterday.  Felipe Massa's Williams had a water leak that may lead to an engine change as well.  Cars only get four "power units" to last 20 races, and this is happening now?   Oh boy... Manor might actually be in the BEST shape; their 2014 power units are at least a mature technology now, with well-known flaws and foibles.

P3 and Quals coming up later tonight.

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March 12, 2015

Sauber Situation, Manor Mayhem

While we wait for Practice 1 to air here in the States, I want to touch on a couple of items that might cut the number of running cars this weekend to 16, instead of the scheduled 20.

First and easiest to deal with is Manor, the former Marussia.  Their cars are in the paddock and the team is beavering away, but there has reportedly been an operational snag.  As you'll remember, the team went into receivership and their assets prepared for sale.  This past December saw an auction of much of their stuff, but importantly some of their things were withheld despite having been listed.  This included all of their IT layout, something desperately needed to run the car at the track.  Of course, the team didn't know there would be a last-minute reprieve, so they had to prepare their computers for sale, so they scraped everything off the hard drives.  Reportedly, they've had problems getting the reinstalled and/or rewritten code to mesh with the Ferrari engines... meaning the cars won't start.  I did sneak a peek at the Practice 1 results, and neither car set a timed lap.  Unfortunate, but unsurprising.

Even more unfortunate is the disaster looming over at Sauber.  We actually first discovered there was a hint of a problem last year when Jennifer Becks, ridiculously cute girlfriend of Adrian Sutil tweeted out during the USGP weekend that it appeared that the team had signed a third driver for the two race seats in 2015.  There's nothing wrong with having three drivers, but one of them is supposed to be declared a reserve.  Time went on, nothing was clarified, and then it was announced that the team had signed a fourth pay driver as well!  Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr were eventually announced as the race-day drivers, and all seemed fine for much of the off-season.  Until former F1 driver and 2014 Sauber test driver Giedo van der Garde stood up and in effect said "hey, I've got a contract with the team for a race seat, what the heck is going on?"

There's no question that Sauber was in desperate financial straits at the end of last season.  Clearly what the heck was going on was that the team signed two drivers that brought more sponsorship money (and/or were willing to pay more for the seat) than van der Garde, simply to stay alive.  Then, quietly, Sutil apparently mentioned that he's got a contract as well.  Van der Garde, however, is pushing the matter, and rightfully so.  He's got a legal contract, after all.  He took the team to court last week... and won.  Of course, the team appealed the ruling saying, in effect, that it'd be dangerous for him to be allowed to drive the car at such a late date... after all, it's been set up for Ericsson and Nasr.

That was, of course, a stupid argument: new drivers step into F1 seats all the time.  The court agreed with van der Garde, ordering the team to allow him to drive and pay his court costs to boot.  The team clearly doesn't want to have him drive, and contempt of court proceedings are actually underway in Australia, with the team ordered to provide a list of assets in the paddock.  In theory, if the team doesn't let him drive, van der Garde could end up owning all of the race assets of Sauber.  Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn, herself a lawyer, has been summoned by the court, while van der Garde's legal team is calling for her imprisonment.  Reportedly, she hasn't been seen for a while, and one source is claiming there are court bailiffs at the Paddock looking for her.

Not surprisingly, the team did not run in Practice 1, either. 

I'll keep you informed.

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Terry Pratchett

I read Terry Pratchett's works only rarely.  Good Omens, certainly.  His retelling of the "Faust" story in the Discworld universe, yes.  Maybe Carpe Jugulum, I can't remember.  But that really covers it, pretty much.  I remember being unhappy when I heard he had had a stroke, and quite vexed with the cruel universe that would find it humorous to afflict an author with Alzheimers.  But it didn't really hurt me, y'know?  Not the way Anne McCaffery did, for example... possibly because Pratchett could still write; Alzheimers is a progressive disease, after all. 

Terry Pratchett passed away today, and I didn't really feel anything when I heard the news... until I read his final tweets announcing his death.  If you're unfamiliar with Pratchett's writings, one of his main characters was Death itself, who always spoke in capital letters:


Terry took Death's arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night.

The End.

That's a good way to go out.

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March 11, 2015

I Don't Know

CREATIVITY!  It's not all it's cracked up to be.  I'm fairly certain I'm either halfway or two-thirds of the way done with the project, but much of the time the image of this part or that part of the project that I have in my head isn't matching up with the results.  I think it's because my tools are limiting me... they aren't flexible enough... and my workarounds aren't "working around" well enough.  Of course, you know what they say about the craftsman who blames his tools.

Shut up.
I know that the last batch of Creativeness will make or break the project... it's been the focal point of the whole kit 'n' kaboodle since Day 1, after all.  Everything I've done up to this point has been getting me "warmed up," if you will, for the big stuff.  I've learned the hardware, played with the equipment, expanded my efforts (perhaps too far), and if it works, it'll be spectacular.  If it doesn't... well, "nothing venture nothing win" and all that.  It will have still been worth doing.  At least, to me it will have been.  I'm not sure what you, my assembled readers, will think.  That's always been the case, of course... make a mistake and the horde will tear you apart and leave your broken and bleeding carcass lying in the dirt.  If you're lucky. 

If you're not, they'll take your broken and bleeding carcass with them, and what happens after that is anybody's guess.  One thing is for sure, though: it won't be pretty, and it'll likely be illegal in most states.  And countries.  Probably galaxies, for that matter.  I didn't even know you could do such things with with the pancreas!  So, yeah, and all that.

I don't know.  I just don't.

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March 09, 2015

F1 on NBCSN: Australia 2015

Like a big, hungry, pissed-off grizzly bear dragging itself out of its hibernation cave, the growls of Formula 1 have begun to emanate from the south-eastern tip of Australia.  Melbourne is the location, the Albert Park circuit the destination for the ten teams contesting the 2015 Formula 1 season.  Let's take a look at the track map for this historic circuit:

Just as the Cincinnati Reds used to open the baseball season with the first game of the year, so too does Australia have primacy of place on the F1 calendar, and the few times that hasn't been the case have felt weird.  I've often said that the Albert Park circuit is the perfect starting track for season, for it's pretty much *everything* you could want out of a track.  Tight, twisty sections that test the maneuverability of a car?  Yep, it's got it.  High-speed parts?  You betcha.  Heavy braking?  Oh yes.  Fast sweeping turns that strain the downforce levels?  Surely.  God's Slot Car Track will provide.  Plus it's a nice-looking location, to boot.

The only thing that prevents it from being the perfect circuit is a lack of elevation change.  It may not be billiard-table flat, but it's awfully close.  It's a tough layout for both driver and car.  It's considered a street circuit, as it runs along permanent roads through the park.  As such, it has many of the problems you'll find in places like Monaco... motor oil dripped into the surface, for example... but without any of the bumps and blemishes you'd expect from a street track, as the entire place was reprofiled and resurfaced to make it as smooth as any permanent layout, despite only being used one weekend a year.  Throw in the first time running the cars "in anger," and you get the potential for exciting weekends for some teams.

And despite all predictions, we'll have ten teams on the grid.  Marussia fought its way out of receivership and will show up in the pit lane despite no testing, running a heavily modified version of last year's chassis, with Ferrari supplying 2014 engines.  That can't be good as far as being a legit challenger goes, but at least the team is on the rid.  They're operating under the parent name "Manor Motorsports," which has always been the name on the racing entry, though Virgin and more recently Marussia has been the team name.  The equipment carriers still have the "Marussia" logo on them, as do the shirts of the team members receiving them, but my guess is that Manor will be the final name.

One driver that WON'T be on the grid for Australia is McLaren's HWMNBN.  During testing a few weeks ago, the Spanish driver was involved in a relatively simple accident, banging into a wall with the side of the car at around 80-90 mph.  While otherwise unharmed, he suffered a concussion with unconsciousness and some amnesia to boot.  He has not been cleared to return to driving activities yet, and the possibility of missing the next race in Malaysia as well can't be ignored.  Concussions are nothing to be sneered at, and caution should always be used concerning them.  There's been a lot of conspiracy theories floating about the accident, primary amongst them that he was shocked to unconsciousness by a malfuctioning ERS, but McLaren denies this.  Kevin Magnussen, one of McLaren's 2014 drivers and now their reserve, will be in the seat until HWMNBN is okay'd to race once again.

NBCSN will once again be providing coverage of the weekend with the Legendary Announce Team in full throat.  Since this is a special event, the first race of the year, it appears that we're getting expanded coverage, too!  They're showing up P1 and P3... take a look at the schedule, understanding that you'll want to double-check it on your end before you trust any of it.  Zap2It, which powers NBCSN's online schedule system, is slightly less ergonomic than your average steel I-beam.

P1 & P2: 1130pm - 2am (P1 probably timeshifted)
P3: 1130pm -1230am live
Quals: 2am - 330am live
Grand Prix of Australia: 1130pm - 200am live

All times are Central Pond Time.  Add one hour for Wyoming, Delaware.  Subtract an hour for Wamsutter, Wyoming.  Remember, all you residents of Coos Bay, Oregon, that you're two hours behind The Pond.

So there we are.  And there you are.  And here I am.  Someone will see you sometime.

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