July 31, 2016

F1Update!: Germany 2016

Okay, let's get this over with.  THIS is your F1Update! for the 2016 Grand Prix of Germany.

:  If our opening sentence suggests to you a lack of enthusiasm for this race, you would be quite perceptive.  At the start of the race, second-place starting Lewis Hamilton had a good start, but his teammate and primary threat Nico Rosberg did not.  In fact, Rosberg's start was awful.  The announcers said he had wheel spin off the line, and that's true... in the same way that a top fuel dragster has wheel spin on a burnout.  That's right, Rosberg actually laid rubber for maybe 100 feet while the rest of the field stared in awe.  We can't imagine that did good things for the tires, and he immediately fell to fourth behind the two Red Bulls.

:  That was all Hamilton needed.  By the end of the first lap, he had a 1.5 second lead over Max Verstappen.  By Lap 10, it was five seconds, and by Lap 15 it was six.  At various points during the race, that lead would grow to 11 seconds but Hamilton would dial his engine back to protect it... he was never in any danger of being challenged.

*GUN, SHOOT FOOT:  For all that, Rosberg in theory could have challenged his teammate, if only he could get clear of the Red Bulls.  On Lap 28, he stopped for tires, and the following lap Verstappen did as well.  The Red Bull driver came out just ahead of the Merc, but the already-warm tires on the German's car meant that he'd have the advantage under braking.  In the hairpin, Rosberg made his move, diving inside of Verstappen... and then not bothering to turn until there was no more space available.  The Red Bull pilot was forced to leave the track, ere he turn directly into the Mercedes.  The track stewards took a dim view of these shenanigans and hit the German with a five second stop-and-go penalty; in this case, Rosberg would pit for new tires on Lap 45 and serve the penalty at the same time.  So he came in, hit his spot perfectly... and the pit crew waited five seconds before doing the tire change.  Except they didn't... they waited just over EIGHT seconds.  It seems the pit wall neglected to start the stopwatch app on their iPhone.  No, we're not kidding. 

*RANT:  This is friggin' ridiculous.  Formula 1 has always been a case of one team dominating the rest, and what's going on is nothing out of the ordinary... except coming as it was on top of four dominating Red Bull seasons, three more Mercedes years have been agony.  A return to 2009 would be welcome: BrawnGP's Jenson Button won six of the first seven races, but from then on five drivers split the remaining 10 wins... and none of them were named "Jenson Button"!  Instead, we get a death march of inevitability, knowing another Mercedes win is just ahead.  What's the darn point?

:  The next race is August 28th, at Spa-Francopants.  For two weeks, the teams are on complete shutdown: no work in the factories, no sim work, nothing at all.  Drivers will go to far-flung locations around the planet, far far away from the races.  And we here at F1U! envy and hate them for it.  See you in a month, folks!

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Ducks In Motorsports #01

Some five years ago, the Rubbaduck named "Ducktona" joined The Flock.

While Ducktona was actually designed as a way to promote duck races, there's clearly some NASCAR-type stuff goin' on here, too.  Now, I've joked once or twice about getting The Pond on a car somewhere (mainly the occasional Red Bull Faces For Charity event), but nothing serious.  But Rubbaducks... well, they've got more resources than I do.

Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to introduce The Xfinity Series #74 Dodge Challenger of Mark Harmon, who has just become duckdom's favorite driver!  He's one of the small guys, racing on week-to-week sponsorships, and he's probably best known for surviving what is often considered the worst NASCAR accident of all time

Rubber ducks in racing... once nothing but a dream, now a reality!

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July 30, 2016

F1 Quals: Germany 2016

Probably as good weather as one could hope for, partly cloudy and just warm enough.  No rain this time!  So who took advantage of the lovely conditions?  Here's the provisional grid for the 2016 Grand Prix of Germany:

Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:15.485 1:14.839 1:14.363
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:15.243 1:14.748 1:14.470
3 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:15.591 1:15.545 1:14.726
4 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:15.875 1:15.124 1:14.834
5 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:15.752 1:15.242 1:15.142
6 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:15.927 1:15.630 1:15.315
7 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes 1:16.301 1:15.623 1:15.510
8 Valtteri Bottas Williams Mercedes 1:15.952 1:15.490 1:15.530
9 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:16.169 1:15.500 1:15.537
10 FelipeNot Nasr Massa Williams Mercedes 1:16.503 1:15.699 1:15.615
11 Esteban! Haas Ferrari 1:15.987 1:15.883
12 Jenson Button McLaren Honda 1:16.172 1:15.909
13 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:16.317 1:15.989
14 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 1:16.338 1:16.041
15 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:16.328 1:16.086
16 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:16.636 1:16.665
17 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:16.716

18 Pascal's Wehrlein MRT Mercedes 1:16.717

19 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:16.876

20 Rio Olympics MRT Mercedes 1:16.977

21 FelipeNot Massa Nasr Sauber Ferrari 1:17.123

22 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:17.238

Two by two, two by two.  If Williams and Force India had gotten into step... well.  Polesitter Nico Rosberg had an exciting Q3, suffering an electronics problem right at the start... and Merc only got him out with enough time to do two qualy laps back-to-back, which is NOT standard operating procedure in Q3.  Usually it's go out on low fuel, set a time, come back in for new tires and just enough fuel, then go out for another try.  Instead, Rosberg went out with enough gas for two hotlaps... and set the pole time on the first shot with the extra weight onboard.  Hamilton had a good shot at beating his teammate, but threw it away by locking a tire into the hairpin that is Turn 6.

I don't have high hopes for the Red Bulls mounting a challenge to the Mercedes boys on Sunday... they're too down on horsepower to keep up with the Silver Arrows through the first half of the circuit, and their advantage (if any) in the twistybits isn't big enough to make up the deficit.  And Ferrari... I dunno what to think of them anymore.  They showed signs of being serious competition earlier in the year, but now?  They're just there, y'know? 

In other, less important, news, it's quite possible this'll be the last time Rio Olympics is on the grid... the rumors are that his Indonesia sponsorship has gone dry.  To be fair, there probably are better people to have in that seat for Manor... ah well.  So it goes.

Race in the morning.

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July 29, 2016

Taking The Night Off

Because I'm about ready to be Very Displeased Indeed, so instead, I'm going to withdraw from everything until tomorrow.  It's better that way.  I mean, right now, I'm that guy at the party...

...and after I leave, nobody will remember I attended.  So I'm just going to go away and pretend today, and indeed most of this week, didn't actually occur.  Because otherwise I'll be very unhappy indeed.  Unhappier.  Whatever. 

Thank you for your continued patronage of this once thriving, vibrant blog.

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July 27, 2016

He's Broken Out "wearyduck.jpg", Head For The Hills!

I don't blame you.  I would, too.  If it wasn't for the unfortunate fact that since it's me involved, I'm sorta stuck.

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July 26, 2016

F1 on NBCSN: Germany 2016

Germany, ahhh Germany.  Home of... um... German things.  I'll let you make your own jokes.  Me, I'm listening to Rammstein and Kraftwerk and Bowie and if that doesn't make your brain bleed from the awful segues, you're stronger than myself.  Also home to the Hockenheimring, this year's site of the Grand Prix of Germany.  Here's the track map:

What used to have an epic blast full-speed blast deep into a forest, then turn around and come on back, is now... well, this.  Even Tilke couldn't kill all of a good thing, I 'spose... it's not a horrible circuit, just... truncated.  Pity. 

Oof.  I just discovered that the last time F1 raced here was the weekend before I was disposed of by the Bookstore.  How nice for me.  Of course, last year there was no German Grand Prix, undoubtedly out of sympathy... or because Bernie couldn't get the organizers to cough up another couple million Euros, one of the two.

The Legendary Announce Team will be live from Spargelstraße and their usual crack coverage will be tasty tasty tasty!  Here's the broadcast schedule:
Practice 2:  7a - 830a  live on NBCSN
Quals:  7a - 830a  live on NBCSN
Grand Prix of Germany:  630a - 9a  live on NBCSN

All times Pond Central, so don't make the same mistake hundreds of others have made!  Set your DVR carefully.  If you don't have one, pretend!  F1U! will come along sometime afterwards, and then it will be Summer Vacation for the Circus... yay for them!

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July 24, 2016

F1Update!: Hungary 2016, The Truncated Version

Here's the story.  Its been ridiculously hot in Duckford the past few days, mid-to-high 90s with heat indexes at or above 110 thanks to a humidity level usually encountered only in indoor swimming pools or Florida.  For us here at F1U!, it's always the humidity that kills us... hard to breathe when you're essentially underwater, don'tchaknow?  Anyway, here in the Midwest, the one thing that always accompanies long-term hot and humid weather, other than sunburns, is thunderstorms.  Big thunderstorms.  Massive storms that last for extended periods of time.  Storms that make the apocalypse seem small and quiet and mundane.  Storms that knock out both power and media connections so one has neither internet or satellite.

In other words, the type of storm that hit Duckford Thursday, Friday and Saturday of this week.  Sunday, on the other hand, has seen nothing of the sort.  Oh, it's still morale-crushingly hot and humid (it's 915pm as this sentence is being typed, and it's still 84 degrees outside with 85% humidity), but there's been nothing as far as inclement weather all day.

So exactly why the satellite and internet went dead for the entire Pond Central complex on Lap 49 of today's Hungarian Grand Prix, shortly after Renault's Jolyon Palmer harmlessly spun his car on fresh tires, will remain forever a mystery.  As the Hungarian Grand Prix is 70 laps long, this did leave something of a gap in our knowledge of the race.  After reading up on the results, it turns out that we did not miss anything unexpected... so THIS is your truncated version of the F1Update! for the 2016 Grand Prix of Hungary!

:  The start of the race is usually one of desperate scrambling for position, trying to take advantage of any little mistake made by the driver in front of you... the grid is never closer together than it is when the lights go out, after all, and it's easier to make big gains in small spaces.  All five of the top starters... Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton, Smiley Ricciardo, Embryo Verstappen, and Seb Vettel... had quick getaways, but it was Ricciardo who proved the most adventurous.  His gamboling and cavorting actually saw him in the lead for a brief moment around the long Turn 1, but it was Lewis Hamilton that wound up ahead out of Turn 2.  When Nico Rosberg took second place from the Red Bull driver, the last shift in podium position that we would see all day took place.  For all that there was another 100 minutes remaining in the race, more or less, the contest was essentially completed there.

*THAT'S THE JOKE:  So what we ended up with was, in effect, a processional.  The only drama involved was when leader Hamilton decided to slow down a bit after the first pit stop, saying that he couldn't make the new tires work.  In doing so, he also managed to slow down Rosberg, who was unable to pass Hamilton... and thus gave Daniel Ricciardo time to cut the gap to second from something like 10 seconds to 4 seconds in just a few laps time.  When the team told him to to pick up the pace or they'd give Rosberg the opportunity to pit first (a decided advantage), suddenly Hamilton's tires worked swell!  Huh, funny how that happens, ain't it?

*O THE DRAMA:  Such was the boredom levels of the race that suddenly the impending loss of satellite feed became the sole source of drama on the day.  We at F1U! knew that we didn't get the entire recording... what we didn't know is when the cut would occur.  On Lap 42 we got the first indication that it was coming... a "part of your recording has been lost" signal flickered on the screen for a moment and was gone.  Usually this is caused by things like lightning or heavy snowfall, but this morning had been clear and warm.  Then it happened: Lap 49, *blip*, recording over.  As our internet connection was still down, we at F1U! didn't immediately scramble for the computer.  Instead, we leisurely shook hands for a job well done, cleaned up the deli meats and cheese tray, picked up the empty bottles of bloody mary mix, Smirnoffs, and horseradish jars, paid the go-go dancers and had the limo drivers take them to the airport.  After a final set of handshakes, most of the F1U! team departed Pond Central in their high-end sportscars... the official timekeeper of the team just picked up a new Maserati Grand Turismo which sounds like God himself is clearing his throat in the tailpipes... and headed off to Parts Unknown until the next time they are Assembled.  I, on the other hand, shook my head at their shenanigans and took a nap, completely unconcerned about such mundane matters such as "who won".

*DUH:  Because of course Lewis Hamilton won, as we found out after the interwebs came back up sometime after 6pm.  Rosberg finished second, Ricciardo was third.  In winning, Hamilton also took over the points lead in the driver's championship for the first time this season.  It was also his fifth win at the Hungaroring, making him the most successful driver ever at the least interesting circuit on the calendar.

We head from Hungary to Germany next weekend.  Traditionally a favorite race for Rosberg, how he performs there might give us an idea of how the rest of the season will go: dogfight or dog's breakfast?   See ya then!

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July 23, 2016

F1 Quals: Hungary 2016

You know things are weird when the first image for your coverage of qualifying is of the Safety Car getting squirrelly in a straight line.  And then practically disappearing in the deluge that's befallen the circuit.  Yes, it was raining at the Hungaroring, but not the "well that'll be challenging" type of rain we like to see.  No, what we had was more along the lines of "grumpy old man builds a boat while his family herds pairs of animals" apocalyptic-style rainfall.  It was so bad that Q1 was postponed by first 10, then 20 minutes.  Then, just when the cars pulled out on track, the rain apparently ceased but plenty of standing water still around... well, let's take a look at the provisional grid for the 2016 Grand Prix of Hungary, shall we?

Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:33.302 1:22.806 1:19.965
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:34.210 1:24.836 1:20.108
3 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:39.968 1:23.234 1:20.280
4 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:40.424 1:22.660 1:20.557
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:35.718 1:24.082 1:20.874
6 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:36.115 1:24.734 1:21.131
7 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 1:35.165 1:23.816 1:21.211
8 Jenson Button McLaren Honda 1:37.983 1:24.456 1:21.597
9 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes 1:41.471 1:23.901 1:21.823
10 Valtteri Bottas Williams Mercedes 1:42.758 1:24.506 1:22.182
11 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:35.906 1:24.941
12 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:36.714 1:25.301
13 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:41.411 1:25.416
14 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:36.853 1:25.435
15 Esteban!   Haas Ferrari 1:38.959 1:26.189
16 FelipeNot Massa Nasr Sauber Ferrari 1:37.772 1:27.063
NC Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:43.965

NC Felipe Not Nasr Massa Williams Mercedes 1:43.999

NC Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:44.543

NC Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:46.984

NC Pascal's Wehrlein MRT Mercedes 1:47.343

NC Rio Rainbow Gate MRT Mercedes 1:50.189

So Q1 got started in a track still covered in a significant percentage of the Adriatic Sea and everybody wearing full-wet tires.  It took almost no time at all, however, for the rains to return in a manner to cause jaws to drop up and down the pit lane.  Out came the red flag to stop the session, and somehow everybody made it back to the garage without pranging themselves.  After some terrifying visuals of the Safety Car actually drifting through the turns, the rain let up enough for things to get going again. 

At which point, Sauber's Sony Ericcson buried himself in a tire barrier, resulting in a red flag stoppage.  After the car was cleared, the drivers got the go ahead to continue.  At which point, Felipe Not Nasr Massa, who had gambled on Intermediate tires, immediately stuffed his Williams into the barriers, resulting in a red flag stoppage.  After the delay getting his car off the circuit, the track was definitely ready for Inters, and away the field went again.  At which point, Rio Rainbow Gate buried himself into a tire barrier, resulting in a red flag.  This time, however, there wasn't time remaining in the session for cars to turn any more laps once the green flag was thrown, so it was decided to end Q1 there.  So, for the record: four red flags, and a Q1 session that was nearly an hour long.

Q2 and Q3 were much less "interesting".  In fact, the only excitement came at the end of Q3, when Lewis Hamilton was on a lock-down flying lap, looking for all the world like he was going to blow the doors off his already quick pole time.  A few turns ahead of him, Fernando Alonso's McLaren came a-cropper, resulting in yellow flags and Hamilton having to back off.  However, by the time Nico Rosberg came charging into the area, the yellows had been cleared.  Thus unencumbered, he just barely managed to nip Pole from Hamilton's extant time. 

As if that wasn't enough, technically both Red Bulls, both Force Indias, and Valterri Bottas were outside of the 107% rule in Q1 due to the weather conditions.  They were just unfortunate on their timings and never managed to turn a so-called "quick lap" due to all the red flags.  The strict interpretation of 107% rule would have had those five drivers starting from the back of the grid; the rule has no "inclement weather" addendum: either you're within 107% of the fastest car in Q1 or you're not, and if you're not, its up to the Stewards if you're going to race.  If they do, you start from the back.  It was decided, though, that the day's circumstances were unusual enough to allow some flexibility.

So that's that.  Race is in the morning, F1U!! is along sometime thereafter.  See ya there.

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July 22, 2016

Friday At Last

This week sucked.  It's over now.  It is 830pm on Friday night, and I'm going to take a nap. 

I don't feel bad about that at all.

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July 19, 2016

F1 on TV: Hungary 2016

Hungary.  Why did it have to be Hungary?  He's the god-forsaken track map for the god-forsaken Hungarian Grand Prix:

I hate this place with a dull annoying apathy.  It used to be a terrible hate, one that could cause young children to weep in terror and grown men to turn their head in fear.  Now, however, my relationship with the Hungaroring has matured to something much more effective: acedia.  In the 11 years I've been covering F1, I've only missed two races.  Both took place in Hungary, and I don't care.  There's a part of me that wants to unplug the DVR on Saturday night and say "oops, oh well" on Sunday morning, but a thought occurred to me this morning whilst I was prepping myself for work, one that at least briefly blew life to the fires of my loathing for Hungary.

No doubt you remember the story I've told about the Hungaroring, how it was originally to be a street circuit through Budapest but for various reasons it wound up in a natural arena some distance outside the city.   Budapest is thought by many to be one of the most beautiful cities in Europe... and a F1 race through the city itself could easily have looked like the circuit in Baku... which, racing aside, was universally praised for the amazing look of the track.  Hungary could have looked like that, and we would have been enjoying it since 1986.

Instead, we get a track that's "Monaco without the glamour."  THANKS, Hungary!  And so my hate returns to apathetic levels again.  And I am not alone... it appears that NBC, et al, are feeling the same way, even though the Legendary Announce Team love the place.  Here's the broadcast schedule:
Quals: 7a - 830a live on CNBC
2016 Grand Prix of Hungary: 6a - 9a live on NBCSN

No, I didn't forget something, it looks like they won't be providing televised coverage of Practice 2... and I checked.  Unless they've put it on NBC-The-Big-Network (hah!), I couldn't find it.  Ah well, no great loss.

So there you are.  Hungary!  Enjoy, won't you?  And remember, F1U! will be along sometime afterwards to provide our usual stellar post-race coverage.  Look forward to it!  I know I will!  See ya then!

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July 16, 2016

The Perfect Magical Girl Candidate

Over at Steven's place, that worthy is asking "where do magical girls come from."  In recent times, a number of them, he points out, have spun off of... let's call them normal... series to become immensely popular in their own right.  An example of this is the genre-defining Nanoha Takamachi, one-time 12 year old minor character in a dating sim who wound up being spun off into her own series: Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha.  A total of four series, two movies, untold manga and figures later, very few people indeed can claim to have even heard of the game she first came from, Triangle Hearts

Befriending the hell outta people since 2004.
But Steven goes beyond just naming past characters.  Indeed, he goes ahead and lays out a set of rules for finding potential future magical girls.  The rules are:

1. The character is a girl, ideally young but not necessarily so, and she doesn't have a spectacular figure (yet).
2. She isn't the main character of the series she's in. Ideally she's a minor character who doesn't make all that much of a difference.
3. The series she is in isn't about magic and she herself doesn't have any extraordinary powers.

He then names a few himself.  In his comment section, readers suggest a few more.  Ah, but I, Wonderduck, have the perfect candidate, one that ought to have happened already, as the parent show has seven omakes and they had plenty of time of work it in.  Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to present to you...

Magical Girl Kohaku!  Let's take a look at how she fits the rules.  Clearly, she's young.  She's not the main character of the series she's in... in fact, she's the younger sister of a secondary character in her series and has a total screen time of less than two minutes.  Total words spoken: eight (...in English, anyway.  I counted!).  The series she's in, Hibiki! Euphonium, has nothing to do with magic in any way.  She does have one power, however:

The Power of Cute!  Really, she's perfect for the role of magical girl.  We all need Magical Girl Kohaku in our lives, the sooner the better.  She will save us from the darkness that is our daily lives, spreading the joy and happiness that only a magical girl can generate throughout our drab existences.  And we will like it!

The power of the ahoge compels you!

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July 14, 2016

Random Anime Picture #120: Pbpbpbppbpbpbpbpbpbttttthhhhhhhhhh!

-ReLife, Ep06
Review inbound once I finish the series, but initial reaction is "I did not expect this to be that good."  Because I did not expect ReLife to be this good at all.

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July 12, 2016

Random Anime Picture #119: Dark Mistress Of The Kitchen

-Shokugeki no Soma, S2E02
The second season of everybody's favorite semi-orgasmic fighting anime based on Iron Chef is in full swing, and while the hat-tip to JoJo's Bizarre Adventure may not have been to everybody's tastes (like mine), it's hard to deny the appeal of Mirror Universe Megumi.  Seriously, I hate this art style:

We saw Delinquent Megumi briefly in S1, though to be honest I don't remember the context, but I DO remember both laughing and being intrigued by this less-than-wholesome version of our favorite co-main character.  And by "intrigued," I mean "grr stampa-stampa!"

I repeat: grr stampa-stampa!
All of which is to say, yup, nothing has changed from last season.  If you watched the first season of SnS and liked it, you've got no reason to avoid this one.  However, if you didn't like SnS, there's probably something wrong with you and you should get that looked at by a doctor... but you'll continue to not like this season.  Though you'll dislike it half as much, since reportedly there's only going to be 12 episodes this time around.

But how could you dislike this?  You'd just be evil and cruel.  Remember: she even has a rubber duckie.

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July 10, 2016

F1 Update!: Great Britain 2016

The infamous Silverstone Microclimate struck again as the cars sat on the grid waiting for the start of the race.  Fifteen minutes before the lights were scheduled to go out, much of the Muir Eireann found itself deposited upon the front straight, sending drivers to cower under umbrellas, gridwalking announcers to bemoan their fates, and mechanics to scramble for wet-weather tires.  Considering the size of the downpour, it came as no great surprise when Race Control threw up the "changeable conditions" sign, which meant two things: first, everybody could change from the tires they qualified on to full wets; and second, Berndt Maylander would lead the first few laps in the Safety Car.  But what would this do to the strategies of Polesitter Lewis Hamilton and those of his nearest rivals?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2016 Grand Prix of Great Britain!

*LIGHTS OUT... KINDA SORTA: As mentioned, the race began behind the Safety Car, despite the rain having stopped and the track already beginning to dry, courtesy of the constant 20mph wind howling across the circuit.  After the first lap, we reached that awkward point where the F1 cars with their full wet tires were better equipped to handle the track conditions than the safety car was.  It was slipping and sliding all over the place, despite the driving prowess of Berndt Maylander.  Indeed, at one point it looked for all the world like the safety car was bound for a spin.  It didn't help that Hamilton was crowding Maylander in an attempt to get him to go faster... we here at F1U! are still wondering how there wasn't contact between them.  Still and all, the safety car pulled off just before Lap 5 began... and nearly half the field followed him into the pitlane for intermediate tires. 

:  That half of the field got kicked in the teeth moments later when Pascal's Wager aquaplaned off at Turn 1 and went sailing deep into the kittylitter, there to be beached and out of the race.  A Virtual Safety Car was virtually summoned, and dutifully the other half of the field went in for intermediate tires; since everybody was mandated to go at reduced speed, they got an advantage over those who pitted under green.  Though occurring early in the race, this confluence of events doomed Smiley Ricciardo to be forever behind his teammate Embryo Verstappen.

*WHAT ABOUT THE REST?:  Unsurprisingly, Lewis Hamilton went galloping off over the horizon, more or less.  Surprisingly the Red Bull of Verstappen passed Hamilton's teammate Nico Rosberg for second early on, and it took the Merc driver some 30 laps to regain the place.  Everything seemed set for a Mercedes 1-2, followed by a Red Bull 3-4.  And then the pesky rulesbook got in the way.

*SR 27.1:  "The Driver must drive the car alone and unaided."  That's the full text of Article 27.1 of the Sporting Regulations, and it is designed to disallow radio messages from the pit wall coaching the driver.  On the whole, this is a good thing: at its worst, we were hearing messages telling the driver where and when to brake, or what gear to be in, or whatever, for nearly every turn... during a race.  It does also mean that when there's a technical problem, the driver needs to figure it out on his own.  For example, at Baku both Mercedes had the identical problem with their engine electronics.  Rosberg was able to figure out the fix (or stumble across it) much, much faster than Hamilton did... to the point that Hamilton was begging for help, and couldn't get it.  Today, however, something different happened.  At one point, Rosberg called in with "gearbox problems."  Mercedes immediately told him exactly what he needed to do to fix it, no hesitation at all.  Within a couple of laps came the notification: Rosberg and Mercedes were under investigation by the race stewards and a decision would come post-race.

*THE END:   As it turned out, nobody could catch Hamilton at his home race.  While he was only six or seven seconds ahead of his teammate, that's only because he was protecting his engine for much of the final 20 laps.  Rosberg was in second, closely hounded by Embryo Verstappen, less than a second behind.  Ricciardo was about 30 seconds adrift, with the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonnen nearly 40 seconds behind him.

*POST-RACE:  After talking to both Rosberg and the Mercedes pit wall honchos, it turned out that the transmission on Rosberg's car had completely lost seventh gear.  Since much of a lap at Silverstone is turned in 7th and 8th gear, this could prove a bother.  Indeed, Rosberg was stuck in this non-existent gear for a short while, which is what prompted the call to the pit wall that started the whole avalanche falling.  The Merc powers-that-be came to the conclusion that the problem was a terminal one: if it wasn't fixed immediately, Rosberg's gearbox would grenade itself.  Knowing that, the team decided to break the rules... a penalty being preferable than the car dead on the side of the track.  The stewards delivered on the penalty, adding 10 seconds to Rosberg's time, thereby dropping him to third in the standings.  The team has already announced they plan to appeal and have some four days to do so, so we're actually not sure who finished second and third quite yet.

SO that's it from Silverstone.  In two weeks, you may see F1U! become permanently broken, for we are to be in Hungary, our favoritest track ever!  See ya then!

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July 09, 2016

F1 Quals: Great Britain 2016

I took a nap.  During my Quals watch.  Whoops.  Here's the provisional grid:

Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:30.739 1:29.243 1:29.287
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:30.724 1:29.970 1:29.606
3 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:31.305 1:30.697 1:30.313
4 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:31.684 1:31.319 1:30.618
5 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:31.326 1:31.385 1:30.881
6 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:31.606 1:30.711 1:31.490
7 Valtteri Bottas Williams Mercedes 1:31.913 1:31.478 1:31.557
8 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:32.115 1:31.708 1:31.989
9 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes 1:32.349 1:31.770 1:32.172
10 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 1:32.281 1:31.740 1:32.343
11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:32.336 1:31.875
12 FelipeNot Nasr Massa Williams Mercedes 1:32.146 1:32.002
13 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:32.283 1:32.050
14 Esteban! Haas Ferrari 1:32.237 1:32.241
15 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:32.553 1:32.306
16 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:32.729 1:37.060
17 Jenson Button McLaren Honda 1:32.788

18 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:32.905

19 Rio Rainbow Gate MRT Mercedes 1:33.098

20 Points Wehrlein MRT Mercedes 1:33.151

21 FelipeNot Massa Nasr Sauber Ferrari 1:33.544

The sharper-eyed among you will notice that there are 21 drivers listed.  Sauber's Sony Ericcson had a massive accident in Practice 3 that wound up with his car totally ruined and the driver taken to hospital for examinations.  He races at the stewards' approval and if the FIA medical delegate allows.  He was reportedly back in the paddock area late after quals, and the team proclaimed him okay, but that's not the same as the race doc giving him the thumbs up.  Since the impact was so bad that he knocked the steering wheel off with his knee during it, I assume they're thinking concussion.

In other news, or not news as the case may be, Hamilton is back on pole.  Again.  It was close, though: he had his fastest lap disallowed for exceeding track limits, going outside the lines.  That happened to a lot of drivers today. 

All in all though?  That stretch of Quals I was awake for was pretty much "Lewis Hamilton and everybody else merely watching."  Which is what I expect the race to be tomorrow.  See ya then!

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July 06, 2016

F1 on TV: Great Britain 2016

They call it the Home of Formula 1.  It was the site of the first ever race for the F1 championship.  It was once a RAF bomber training airfield.  And today, it is called Silverstone, the location of the 2016 Grand Prix of Great Britain.  Here's the track map:

Silverstone used to be my favorite circuit.  Here's what it looked like back in 2008:

I am of a mind to say that the new Sector 1, and moving the pit straight from after Woodcote to after Club, did a fine job of mucking the place up.  Perhaps it's a case of "back in the day", but I don't think so.  But then, I wouldn't, would I?

My favorite sequence (Maggots-Becketts-Chapel) is still around, and the lunatic British fans still show up (and disappear into the mud when it's wet), I reckon it's naught but good manners that I do too.  And if you choose to do the same, the Legendary Announce Team will be doing their usual yeoman's work LIVE from... um... Stamford, CT.  Where they do almost all of their races from.  That's a step up in the world, though... they used to do it from Charlotte, NC, folding tables and all.   Here's the broadcast schedule:
Practice 2:  2p - 330p tape delay on NBCSN
Quals:  7a - 830a live on NBCSN
Grand Prix of Great Britain:  630a -10a live on CNBC

All times Pond Central.  Use at your own risk.  May cause itching.

I know, I know, there's very little preview in this thing anymore.  Yep, you're right.  Know why? 

See ya after Quals!

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July 05, 2016

Graphics Card... Possible Solution!

Did you know that the interwebs come equipped with things called "search engines?"  True story!  You put a request or question into the search engine, and it checks to see if there's something out in the great world of the webz that matches.  I know, right?  I couldn't believe it either!  So I put "new graphics card black screen" into one of these search engines (called "Google") and OMG, hundreds of people have had a similar problem to mine!  So the blown away!  I post the best response I found here, just so I won't lose it:

1. Turn off the computer and unplug
2. Remove Graphic card
3. Plug the monitor to your video output
4. Turn on the computer
5. Click on start and type msconfig
6. Select the Boot tab and click on the box that says Safe boot with minimal selected.
7. Apply then click ok.
9. Shut Down computer and unplug
10. Install Graphic card
11. Turn on the computer (should boot into safe mode)
12. Go into Device Manager
13. Expand Display Adapter
14. Disable the Intel(R) HD Graphics 4000 driver. (DO NOT UNINSTALL)
15. Click the start button and type msconfig
16. Unclick Safe boot
17. Restart
The computer will restart normally and will no longer get the black screen.

Another answer which sounds promising is:

1. Go to bios settings - set primary display device to PEG OR PCI E

What do you, my various and sundry tech wonks, think?  And this is going to sound like a stupid and dangerous question, but where in W8.1 does one get into BIOS?  I figgered out how to get into msconfig without a start button easily enough (right-click on the windows icon on the left of the toolbar... it's beautiful!), but BIOS is hiding somewhere.

You guys are the ginchiest!

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July 04, 2016

Graphics Card... Oh No, Not Again

While the Chicago Cubs whupped the collective tucuses of the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field this afternoon, I finally took it upon myself to install my "new" graphics card. 

Yep, one of these beasts... the ASUS GeForce GTX650 2GB.  Not only is it a low-power card, drawing all the energy it needs from the mobo, more importantly it's a single-slot card.  Anything much larger than this wouldn't fit in the case without major surgery and removing the cooling solution from the Intel i5 processor.  I don't think I would have bothered even when I was young and stupid, let alone my current old and tired and stupid state.  Of course, the advantage of such a card is that, in theory, all you need to do is plug it into the correct slot and voila, you're ready to roll.

As you can guess from the title of this post, that didn't happen.  After struggling to get the card in position (the external mounting bracket of the tool-less case is a right bastard to use), I finally managed the trick, buttoned everything back up, plugged all the cords back in, hit the power button, and... nothing.  Oh, the computer was functioning, the hard-drive light was doing its usual flickering routine, everything was spooling up, and I thought I could even hear the fan on the card spinning... but the monitor stayed dark.  Indeed, it even displayed a "monitor going to sleep" message! 

So I tried again.  Removed the card, reseated it, plugged everything in, did NOT put the case back together, hit the power button, saw the card's fan spin up... but still nothing on the screen.  Perturbed and annoyed, I removed the card, delicately put it back in its box, and tried the onboard graphics again. 

No problems. 

So what the hell?  I bought this card because it was a low-power draw: it's rated at pulling somewhere between 60 - 64w, with a PSU of 400w listed... and I've seen comments saying that it works fine with a 300w.  My PSU is shown as 460w, so that shouldn't be the problem.  That the fan spun up pretty much guarantees its getting power... so what gives?  Last time, even when the card wasn't working right it still turned on the monitor.

I don't want to yank the (new, upgraded) PSU out of my old computer to install it in this one... I just want everything to work!  Is that too much to ask?

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July 03, 2016

F1Update!: Austria 2016

The skies above the head of noted film director/producer George Lucas were a uniformly overcast gray as strolled the pit lane of the Red Bull Ring at Spielberg, Austria, the town which gave Steven Spielberg, himself a noted producer/director of films, his name.  There was a faint hint of rain in the air, a hint which caused no end of concern as the cars of the F1 Circus sat on the grid.  Lewis Hamilton sat on pole, his two closest rivals buried back towards the middle of the pack due to penalties, and one could not but think that it would take some miracle to bring the reigning World Champion to head.  A miracle... or rain.  Would either occur?  THIS is your F1Update! for the 2016 Grand Prix of Austria!

*LIGHTS OUT:  The start of the race was, surprisingly, uneventful.  There were no great comings-together, no massive showers of carbon fiber shards, no mad scrambles to refit front wings or cut tires.  Just the sad sight of Force India's Nico Hulkenberg, originally second on the grid, being swallowed by the ravenous beast that is the F1 grid when he suffered a massive amount of wheelspin at the start.  On the other hand, Hulkenberg's disappointment did give us a look at what some are saying is likely to be the way of things in 2017, as Jenson Button's McLaren tucked itself nicely behind polesitter Hamilton's Mercedes.  This happy state of affairs only lasted a few laps before Button was passed by Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari, then seemingly the rest of the field, then half of the cars in the parking lots, but for a moment there McLaren was back.

*EYES TO THE SKIES:  Despite their overwhelming advantage in the various championships this season, Mercedes has proven to have two weaknesses.  The first is reliability... there always seems to be something going wrong with one or both of the cars, and Hamilton is already down to his last sets of engine parts, for example.  The second weakness is a tendency for one team of strategists or the other to overthink themselves.  Almost as soon as the race began, drivers were reporting occasional raindrops.  This lead people to start watching the skies with an intensity seen but rarely in life... and for Hamilton's Mercedes strategists to unshackle the giant throbbing mass of brain tissue they keep in a vat for racing planning purposes and let it figure out the best thing to do.  When Nico Rosberg's tires began to fade on him, he dove in for a new set.  Hamilton's strategists decided to keep him out on track for as long as possible, hoping to go from the first set of tires directly to wets, and thus avoid a pitstop.  Good idea in theory, but when Rosberg began cutting huge swathes of time off Hamilton's lead, it was shown to be wrong in practice.  Eventually the great brain was retinned and put away, and Hamilton came in for new tires... and promptly lost the position to his teammate when the pitstop was slowed by a balky tire change.  As the pit rotation completed, Rosberg led the race.

*SAFETY CAR:  The big question was how well could Rosberg baby his tires, as his teammate now had fresh rubber that would last longer in comparison to the multiple-lap-used tires on Rosberg.  Nobody thought that either driver could stay out long enough to finish the race on one stop; the longer Rosberg could stay out on his worn tires, the less laps he'd have to put on the next set, thus cutting into any advantage Hamilton gained from pitting later... he may have surrendered the lead, after all, but if he could stay close, it could easily come down to which driver had more tire grip remaining at the end.  Whatever calculations Mercedes had figured out went out the window when Seb Vettel's right-rear tire blew out, scattering chunks all along the stop/finish straight and bringing out the Safety Car to allow for cleanup.

This gave Nico Rosberg a chance to mollycoddle his tires for a few laps, thus extending their lifespan.  Things were shaping up for an interesting run to the flag for the two Mercedes teammates.

*SPRINT: Rosberg's advantage never reached two seconds, and most of the time was right around one second.  However, it came as a great surprise when it was Hamilton, not Rosberg, that pitted first on Lap 54 of 71.  Rosberg dove in the next lap and came out ahead, and on super-soft tires to boot in comparison to Hamilton's softs.  It took fewer than 10 laps for Rosberg to pass first Smiley Ricciardo, then Embryo Verstappen, to take the lead; Hamilton got hung up slightly behind Verstappen and wound up 1.5 seconds back of his teammate with eight laps to go.  Quickly enough, the lead was halved, then halved again.  As the final lap began, the Brit was all over the back of the German, who was clearly suffering from brake problems. 

*TAKEDOWN!:  Going into Turn 2, Hamilton tried to go around the outside of his teammate.  However Rosberg, either due to brake problems or sheer bloodymindedness, didn't put much effort into turning in and floated very wide indeed.  The result was predictable.

Rosberg would later say that he had the the right of the driving line and the contact was Hamilton's fault.  Anybody who actually saw the incident, however, had to be asking him what line was he taking, the white one that shows the outside of the track limits?  As a result of the contact, Rosberg's front wing got stuck under his car before eventually shattering in a shower of sparks; he would eventually finish fourth and be penalized for unsafe driving.  Hamilton, on the other hand, got away mostly unscathed and wound up taking the win in one of the more interesting races we've seen this year.

*TO THE MANOR BORN: Pascal's Wager Wehrlein had himeself an interesting little race in his Manor.  First, he pulled into the wrong starting slot and wound up having to reverse into the correct one on the grid.  While there were people wondering why he didn't get penalized for that, it's because it's perfectly legal to reverse on-track; it's only in the pit lane one cannot reverse.  From there, Wehrlein managed to get as high as sixth before having some bad luck with Vettel's safety car... he had just stopped, and wound up last as everybody else got the free pit stop.  Yet he made a one-stop strategy work, worked his way back up the standings, and when the Force India of Sergio Perez was retired for brake issues, he found himself in 10th place... the position he would complete the race in, earning his first point and the team's first point since 2014.

No driver comments this week, as this F1U! is late enough as it is.  Next week we're to Silverstone for the British Grand Prix... see ya then!

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July 02, 2016

F1 Quals: Austria 2016

It is uncommon these days for my life to be so busy that I actually forget things like lunch dates or important to-do's.  Yet that is exactly what happened today here at Pond Central.  In fact, it wasn't until I was tucking into my plate of sausage-stuffed giant rigatoni at Olive Garden that I realized: I had completely forgotten about today's Quals!  Reacting immediately, I mentioned to my folks "huh, I forgot about quals," and had myself another spoonful of zuppa toscana and a breadstick.  I eventually made my way home, sat down to watch quals and promptly dozed off in my chair.  Once I woke up a few minutes later, I got myself to the computer desk to write this and found myself getting constantly distracted by things like this, or like this, or particularly like this.  To the point that it's now a very long time indeed since Quals, or even since I came home from lunch.  What I'm trying to say is that here's the provisional grid for the 2016 Grand Prix of Austria:

Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:06.947 1:06.228 1:07.922
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:06.516 1:06.403 1:08.465
3 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes 1:07.385 1:07.257 1:09.285
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:06.761 1:06.602 1:09.781
5 Jenson Button McLaren Honda 1:07.653 1:07.572 1:09.900
6 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:07.240 1:06.940 1:09.901
7 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:07.500 1:06.840 1:09.980
8 Valtteri Bottas Williams Mercedes 1:07.148 1:06.911 1:10.440
9 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:07.131 1:06.866 1:11.153
10 Felipe Not Nasr Massa Williams Mercedes 1:07.419 1:07.145 1:11.977
11 Esteban Haas Ferrari 1:07.660 1:07.578
12 Pascal's Wager MRT Mercedes 1:07.565 1:07.700
13 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:07.662 1:07.850
14 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 1:07.671 1:08.154
15 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:07.618 No Time

16 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:07.657 No Time

17 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:07.941

18 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:07.965

19 Rio Rainbow Gate MRT Mercedes 1:08.026

20 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:08.409

21 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:08.418

22 Felipe Not Massa Nasr Sauber Ferrari 1:08.446

Well, okay you say, big deal, just another Merc 1 - 2, hey?   Well not so fast there, Binkey!  Both Nico Rosberg and Seb Vettel had to change gearboxes meaning they take five-grid-spot penalties... which ALSO means that Force India's Nico Hulkenberg will be starting second, and Jenson Button's McLaren will be third! 

As the late great Mel Allen used to say, "How about that?"  (oops, got distracted again)

Down towards the bottom, we find Carlos Sainz, Sergio Perez and Kid Kvyat, all three of whom snapped their suspensions like dry twigs running over the... shall we say "aggressive"?... curbs at the Red Bull Ring.  There's been a lot of that this weekend... Rosberg's gearbox change is a result of his left-rear suspension breaking, and I know it happened to a few drivers in Practice 1 as well.

That's Rosberg's suspension at the point of failure.  Pretty clean snappage right there... and that's the thing about carbon fiber: it's remarkably strong right up to the moment it isn't anymore, at which point it breaks like a dry saltine.  Metal may be heavier, but it usually bends before it breaks... which is probably why suspensions were the last thing to change to carbon fiber in a F1 car design.

Well, it should be a race tomorrow.  There's even a chance of rain, which'll throw the ducks amongst the rye bread, that's for sure.  See you then, maybe!

If I remember.

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