October 12, 2015

Wins To World Series: 5

Cubs 8, Cardinals 6.

Six home runs for the Cubs, one from each of the first six players in the lineup... and oh, that's a postseason record for home runs in one game by one team.  The Cubs are now one win away from eliminating the Cardinals and moving on to the NLCS.  Game 4 is Tuesday afternoon... I have goosebumps!

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October 11, 2015

F1 Update: Russia 2015

A pretty day greeted the F1 Circus as Nico Rosberg led the field to the grid.  His Mercedes teammate, Lewis Hamilton, sat next to him, supremely confident in his lead in the Driver's Championship.  Combined, the two had to outscore their Ferrari rivals by a mere three points to secure the team's second Constructor's Championship.  So would they manage this?  Would Ferrari's Seb Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, champions both, be able to outrace the Silver team?  Or would the Mercedes-powered Williams of Valterri Bottas have something to say about the matter?  THIS is your F1Update! for the 2015 Grand Prix of Russia!

*LIGHTS OUT... OY!: The start of the race was everything Rosberg could have hoped for.  Not only did he have and keep the advantage going into the big looping third turn, Hamilton pushed a bit too hard and washed away.  The lummoxing Mercedes suddenly was no longer interested in attacking the lead, but was having to defend second from the hard-charging Raikkonen who had gotten past Bottas for third at the start.  But it was all moot very quickly, as Sony Ericsson and Nico Hulkenberg came together in a mess of carbon fiber and tears.  The safety car was called out and the exciting start was put on hold.

*RESTART... OY VEH!:  While under the control of the safety car, race leader Rosberg called in to the pit lane: his gas pedal was sticking, to the point where he actually had to remove his foot completely from the pedal for the throttle to react.  As you can imagine, this did nothing for his overall pace.  Shortly after the restart, he relinquished the lead to Hamilton, then had to watch as the rest of the field went by as he nursed his broken Mercedes to the pit lane, never to be seen again.

*OHFERTHELUVVA...:  Shortly after the Ericsson/Hulkenberg coming-together, the Lotus of Lettuce Grosjean was seen in the pit lane getting a change of tires.  The stop took longer than normal, but things seemed fine for the Frenchman anyway.  Until he lost control, smacked the TecPro barriers with the back of the car, then pinwheeled and smacked the rest of the car into them, just to be completely sure he was out of the race.  The safety car was called out again while the marshals removed the Lotus, cleaned up the pieces, and repaired the barriers with duct tape.  No, we're not kidding.  No, this isn't the usual technique.

:  Once the race restarted again, Hamilton and Bottas pull away quickly from the squabbling Ferrari drivers, and everything settled down into something resembling a normal F1 race.  During the various pit rotations, the standings became Hamilton, Vettel, Sergio Perez in the remaining Force India, Bottas, the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo (who would retire with something broken in the suspension), and Raikkonen.

*IVAN DID WHAT???:  Carlos Sainz was in the points, but had a brake problem.  His front brakes had been overheating, despite his best efforts to keep them cool.  Still, everything looked like he'd be okay... until his front-left brake disc exploded in a cloud of black brake dust.  He spun and skidded back first into the wall at Turn 13, the same place he had his wreck in Practice 3.  The impact seemed to be minor, but as he pulled away to limp back to the pits, one of his rear wing's endplates was visibly hanging by a single mounting point and swinging in the breeze.  It took no time at all for it to fall off and end up in the middle of the track.  And then a marshal ran out to collect it...

...right in front of Seb Vettel.  One must wonder which one was more surprised, and which one needed a new firesuit more.  Moments later, Vettel called back to the pits: "We have a very brave Russian running across the track."

*THE END:  As expected, Hamilton's lead held up nicely, leading Vettel across the line by some six seconds.  It was what was going on behind them that was interesting.  Sergio Perez was in third but was on old tires.  Valterri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen were both stalking the Force India driver... and each other.  On the second-to-last lap, Bottas got by the young Mexican driver, followed quickly by the Ferrari; the podium for Force India was clearly gone.  Until, on the final lap, Raikkonen tried an... inopportune... move on his countryman Bottas.  The Williams was sent into the barriers, broken and done.  The Ferrari was injured but still, technically, running, leaving a trail of sparks behind.  Perez went by to reclaim third, and Felipe Not Nasr Massa also went by for fourth.  Raikkonen would finish in fifth, earning just enough points to keep the Constructor's Championship in play... barely.  Until the Stewards came down after the race and gave the Ferrari driver a 30sec time penalty for causing an accident.  This dropped him to eighth and handed the Constructor's Championship to Mercedes for a second time.  Vettel's strong finish, mixed with Rosberg's DNF, moved him into second for the Driver's Championship, which in theory can be clinched at the next race.

Speaking of the next race, we'll be here in two weeks.  And by "here", we mean "Austin, TX", and by "next race", we mean the United States Grand Prix!  We'll see you then!

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October 10, 2015

Wins To World Series: 6

Cubs 6, Cardinals 3

The Cubbies needed to split in St Louis, and that's exactly what they did.  Now it's a best-of-three series, and the Cubs have the next two at Wrigley.  Next game is Monday!

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F1 Quals: Russia 2015

If there was a race that's clearly cursed, it's the 2015 Grand Prix of Russia.  Why do I say that?  Practice 1 was badly affected when, ironically, a cleaning truck dumped a metric fsckton of diesel fuel on the circuit.  Even after the mess was dealt with, the track in the area was still slick.  Practice 2 started in a heavy rain, but just from Turn 12 to Turn 2.  The rest of the circuit was only slightly damp, which was absolutely the worst possible result as far as the teams were concerned... you can't learn anything with the track like that.  The slightly damp part was okay for slicks, but those would be suicide on the wet part.  Likewise, you could put full wets or inters on for the wet part, but they'd be chewed to hell on the dry.  So there was practically no running during Practice 2.  And today's Practice 3 was stopped at the halfway point after Carlos Sainz Jr had a heavy wreck.  He actually went under the TecPro barriers and caused serious damage to the backing steel barrier. 

He was essentially unhurt, and is apparently campaigning the doctors to let him race on Sunday.  However, the required repairs to the steel barrier were so extensive that not only was Practice 3 stopped, but the following GP3 race was cancelled as well.  So did Quals go off without a hitch, or did the ghost of Stalin, unhappy with all the comingling with the western powers, reach up out of the tarmac and rip out the suspensions of the cars?  Here's the provisional grid for the 2015 Grand Prix of Russia:

Pos. Driver Team Time
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:37.113
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:37.433
3 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:37.912
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:37.965
5 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:38.348
6 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:38.659
7 Sergio Perez Force India 1:38.691
8 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus 1:38.787
9 Embryo Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:38.924
10 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:39.728
11 Kid Kvyat Red Bull Racing 1:39.214
12 Felipe Not Massa Nasr Sauber 1:39.323
13 Jenson Button McLaren 1:39.763
14 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:39.811
15 Felipe Not Nasr Massa Williams 1:39.895
16 HWIOANFernando Alonso McLaren 1:40.144
17 Sony Ericsson Sauber 1:40.660
18 Will Stevens Marussia 1:43.693
19 Roberto Merhi Marussia 1:43.804

Of course, only 19 cars qualified; Sainz's was too badly damaged to repair in the hour or so the team had.  Late reports from Sochi are that he's been medically cleared to race, by the way.  No doubt the Stewards will allow him to race.  Up at the top very little has changed.  Oh, it's Rosberg instead of Hamilton on pole, but that's really not a huge shock.  Bottas in the Williams shouldn't come as a surprise either: Mercedes engine, after all.  Nor should the Ferraris being where they are stun anybody by now.  Really, it's a bog-standard grid for a nightmare-plagued race.

In other news, Lettuce Grosjean was officially confirmed as the primary driver for Haas F1's inaugural season.  Great pickup for a rookie team: he's got six years experience, a handful of podiums, and has the greatest nickname I've ever come up with for a F1 driver.  Definitely no downside to him, except he'll probably be moved to Haas's technical partner, Ferrari, in a few years.  Still no word on who'll be in the second seat, except it seems very unlikely it'll be the long-rumored American driver.  Unless they somehow pull Rossi from Manor, that is... and I don't expect that to happen, worse luck. 

Race in the morning, see you afterwards.

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October 09, 2015

It's Been An Unhealthy Week

It all started Wednesday night after the Cubs game.  Something I ate was disagreeing with me, and somewhere around 3am, I had a complete and total stomach reboot.  Or, as it's said in the Blargletron, "blarglarglarglarglarglarglarglarglarglohgodblarglarglarglarglargl."  Thursday was better in that I made it through the day without any illness-related incident, but I felt like death warmed over all day.  Today, I woke up feeling like death not warmed over and with a sore throat to boot.  I still don't feel well, and I need a nap.

So how are you?

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October 07, 2015

"Just Go Out And Play."

That was Cubs manager Joe Maddon's instruction to his team before tonight's wild card game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  They did.

Starter Jake Arrietta went out and became the first pitcher ever to throw a shutout with at least 10 strikeouts (11, in this case) and no walks in a post-season game.  Rookie Kyle Schwarber blasted a 449foot home run into the Allegheny River beyond PNC Park's right field fence, CF Dexter Fowler added another for a final score of 4-0.  And I'll be damned if I'm not smilin' like a damfool.

Next up is another first ever: the Cubs face the St Louis Cardinals in the postseason.  There will be blood, and we will all be lucky to survive it.

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F1 on NBCSN: Russia 2015

Last year saw the debut of the Grand Prix of Russia, but it was a very bittersweet race to say the least.  Indeed, one got the impression that the drivers weren't all that thrilled to be there... understandable, considering what had happened in Japan a couple of weeks earlier.  That's not a knock on Sochi, the atmosphere probably would have been the same at any circuit on the calendar.  So here's the map for the second Grand Prix of All The Russias:

Guess who designed it?  That's right, it's a Tilkedrome, though it doesn't have his hallmark long straight followed by a stupid idea of a turn. Probably because he didn't have unlimited control of the venue: the circuit winds through Sochi Olympic Park, home of the 2014 Winter Olympics.  There were probably too many buildings in the way for him to do his usual design tricks.

Last year, the circuit proved to be very gentle on tires... indeed, Nico Rosberg managed to go 52 laps on one set of tires, when the whole race was 53 in total.  The surface is a year older now, so maybe it'll be a little less "sweet", but that's not the way to bet.  Look for another one-stopper, and another rather less-than-exciting race.  Hopefully we can actually see someone trying to challenge the lead.

Fortunately for our sanity, the Legendary Announce Team will be bringing us EXTENDED coverage this time around!  Let's take a look at the broadcast schedule:
Practice 2: 6am - 730am live
Practice 3: 5am - 630am live-ish?
Quals: 7am - 830am live
2015 Grand Prix of Russia: 530am - 8am live
That's right, we're getting to see Saturday's Practice 3!  That's uncommon... I think it's usually just at Austin and occasionally Montreal that we see that.  Why?  Probably just needed to fill time is my guess.  All times are Pond Central, of course.  Add an hour if you're out there on the east coast, take two hours off if you're in Oregon or California, and it's whatever time you want it to be if you're on the North Pole.

You may remember I mentioned something about an announcement at the end of the Japanese Grand Prix F1U!... there was a chance I was going to have to drop my satellite plan due to lack of fundaging, but that turned out not to be entirely the case.  So no worries, my usual desultory F1 coverage will be along on Sunday as usual.  See ya then.

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October 06, 2015

Random Anime Picture #103: Peaceful

-YKK OVA #1, Ep02

Because sometimes, you just need some Alpha to make the day right.

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October 04, 2015

Gakkou Gurashi Ep04 and Ep05

Two episodes at once?  I can hear you, my assembled readers, asking in unison if I'm insane, if I've lost my mind, if I have, in fact, gone 'round the bend.  To which I respond with "well, duh."  There is, however, a method to my madness.  I have done two episodes at once before, but they were "nutshelled", or brief recaps of episodes that were pointless or annoying or both.  Not this time!  In a fair and just world, these two episodes of Gakkou Gurashi would have either been aired back-to-back or as one hour-long episode.  Well, this isn't a fair and just world, obviously.  Obviously, The Pond is not fair and just either, but I can at least try to improve this little corner of the planet by doing this.  I'll fail, of course... improving the planet is not accomplished by blogging about anime... but the effort will have been made.  That's gotta count for something, right?  Now, before we get started, allow me to repeat myself.  I'm blogging about the anime, not the manga.  I'm not interested in knowing how things are done or aren't done in the manga, nor in what's coming up in the show.  I'm watching it as I blog, so I'm literally no farther than Ep05.  So if I say something that is proven false in a later episode, I don't want to know about it.  All of this is a lot of words to say No Spoilers.  Please don't make me be grumpy at you.  You don't know what I'm capable of.  Okay, now that we've gotten that out of the way... as you may remember, Ep03 was mostly flashback to that day.  We don't find out how they get off the roof, but I guess that's okay!  What will we learn about today?

Yuki is hand-drawing a graduation album... after all, it's soon to be that time of year for them... and Miki is helping, in exchange for Yuki actually doing her chores.  Yuri and Kurumi were apparently gardening, look at those daikons... and no, that's not a euphemism for anything.  I'm amused that while I meant to type "euphemism", my fingers actually generated "euphonium".  I also badly mangled "euphemism" to the point that spellcheck couldn't quite figure out what I was trying to say.  Sometimes I wonder about myself.  Anyway, Yuki is a lousy artist, go figure, and everybody makes fun of her for it, also go figure.

Miki, on the other hand, is quite good... to the point where the others are wondering who the girl is with her in the picture.  "She was a... close friend," she says with a sad look as we fade into another flashback.  Lots of those in this show, huh?


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October 03, 2015

Random Anime Picture #102: Gurk!

-Gakkou Gurashi, Ep03

I hope to have the two-episode writeup completed tonight, probably late enough to be considered "tomorrow".  The Ep04 portion has been done for a few days, and I've been making my way through Ep05 in my copious free time.  But for sure tonight!  I hope.

UPDATE 1240a, 10/4/2015:  Those of you with "ha ha ha never gonna happen" in the betting pool, make sure to pick up your winnings.  The siren's call of sleepytime was too strong and a "short nap" became a "long nap", then an even longer one.  The upshot is that the writeup will be up Sunday sometime as opposed to, oh, right about now.  Sorry 'bout that.

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October 01, 2015

Ladies And Gentlemen, May I Present To You...

...the 2015 Chicago Cubs rookies!

Handsome young men, all.

Oh, by the way, the Cubs are in the playoffs and have the third-best record in Baseball, in large part because of these well-dressed rookies.  Unfortunately, the Pirates have the second-best record, and the [Censored] have the best.  That's right, the three best records in baseball are all in the NL Central. 

Here's how the playoffs are going to work.  First off you get the one-game-winner-takes-all Wild Card game.  That's likely to be the Cubs at Pittsburgh.  The winner of that game gets to play the team with the best record:  the [Censored].  Meanwhile, the Dodgers and Mets play each other.  The winner of that gets to play the NL Central winner.

The Cubs have a remarkably good shot at this, actually.  I'm not going to be sad if they don't win... they weren't supposed to be this good this fast, next year was always the target... but I sure won't be unhappy if they trash the Pirates and go up against the wounded, limping, vulnerable [Censored]! 

First time in the playoffs since 2008.  Wow.

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September 29, 2015

Now THAT'S How You Do A Duck Race!

At night.  With light-up duckies.

Very much yes, yes indeed.  Rockwall, Texas, we here at The Pond salute you!

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September 28, 2015

NASA's Announcement

Earlier today, NASA made the stunning announcement that they had found evidence of flowing water on Mars.  While tremendously exciting, I'm less than convinced by the imagery they're using as proof:

Something just doesn't add up...

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September 27, 2015

F1 Update: Japan 2015

A blue sky welcomed the F1 Circus as polesitter Nico Rosberg led the field to the grid, but ominous looking clouds in the horizon echoed the memories of the accident a year ago that eventually took the life of Jules Bianchi.  Rosberg's teammate and Championship rival Lewis Hamilton was next to him in 2nd, with a Williams and a Ferrari on each of the next two rows.  Would Rosberg be able to capitalize on his good fortune and take the championship fight to Hamilton?  Or would Hamilton curbstomp the field?  Or would Seb Vettel take his second win in a row?  THIS is your F1Update! for the 2015 Grand Prix of Japan.

*START:  The start fell into a category best called "sloppy".  At the front, the two Mercedes drivers got away well enough and went into Turn 1 side-by-side... at which point Hamilton decided to muscle up and start shoving his teammate the the outside of the turn.  At this point, Rosberg had two choices: 1) hold his ground and make his teammate decide whether or not to run into him; or 2) run offtrack, potentially compromising his race, but keeping the car in one piece.  He made his choice, getting pushed into the runoff area and losing a couple of positions in the process.  Further back, Daniel Ricciardo got a marginally better start than Felipe Not Nasr Massa and slid to the center of the front straight to get past him... into an opening that he thought would open up but didn't.  Both drivers suffered punctured tires just past the start/finish line.  It would be very long laps for the pair, and neither would ever factor into the race again.  Sergio Perez, attempting to avoid the kerfluffle, bounced off Carlos Sainz and spun out in Turn 1.  While mostly unscathed, he lost all the time in the world and would actively lobby for a safety car the rest of the race.  By the end of the first lap, Hamilton had a 1.7 second lead on Seb Vettel's Ferrari, and that was the last we'd see of the Silver Arrows.

*NO, REALLY:  According to MercedesF1, their cars were on screen for a total of six minutes during the race.  That total includes the cool-down lap and the start.  At one point the only time we saw Hamilton was during a pit stop, and only after it was over and he pulled out on track.  For one of the front runners, we'll normally get the entire stop, from the final bit of roll into the pitbox to the exit of the box.  There is a theory out there that this is Bernie Ecclestone turning up the pressure on Mercedes in an attempt to force them to provide engines to Red Bull next season.  We here at F1U! believe that there wasn't much reason to actually show the Mercedes this race, since for most of it they were alone and unmolested.

*MCLAREN FRUSTRATION:  Let's face it, thus far this season the McLaren/Honda combination has been a dog and nothing but.  Today, the frustration of the drivers boiled over.  Jenson Button seems more and more likely to retire rather than finish his contract with the team, and Fernando Alonso... well.  After being totally embarrassed by Sony Ericcson, who had screwed up the final corner yet was still able to blow past the Spaniard with contemptuous ease down the front straight, he got on the radio to his pit wall.  "GP2 Engine.  GP2.  ARRGH!"  Though to be fair, we here at F1U! thought Alonso had sneezed, not angrily grunted.  Coming as it did at the circuit Honda owns, with Honda's president in attendance, this was not an off-the-cuff comment by an annoyed driver. 

*WHAT ELSE?:  Honestly?  It'd be difficult to make the rest of this race feel exciting.  Up at the front it shook out rather quickly, farther back it was a case of the lower-midfield squabbling over a point here or there.  If Friend of The Pond Vaucaunson's Duck hadn't been texting us as he watched the race from San Francisco, we may have called it an early night.  Hamilton won by 19 seconds over his teammate, who was three seconds ahead of Ferrari's Seb Vettel.  Behind them, Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas were some 15 seconds behind, and then there was almost a half-minute to the next car.  The two Lotuses were over 73 seconds behind the leader in 7th and 8th, and the two Toro Rossos were 95 seconds and over a full lap behind to round out the top 10. 


"...and that (snaps fingers) for Singapore!" - Lewis Hamilton

"Next time, we wreck or he backs off.  Oh, who am I kidding, I'll back off again." - Nico Rosberg

"'Two seconds to Nico is plenty, Seb' my butt." - Seb Vettel, after losing second place to a stupid pit call.

"mrmrmrmmmbrlbr mmrmrlrrbrllrlrlr mmmmmmrbrbrbrlr" - Kimi Raikkonen

"What he said." - Valtteri Bottas

"I was a lonely traveler today.  Was there a race going on?" - Nico Hulkenberg, who was alone on track most of the day.

"AIEEEEEEEEEEEE!" - American Alexander Rossi after barely missing teammate Will Stevens car, hidden in a cloud of tire smoke after spinning in 130R.

Sochi Russia in two weeks time.  An announcement may be coming before then, stay tuned!

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September 26, 2015

F1 Quals: Japan 2015

Well, if you're going to end a session, that's certainly an interesting way to do it!  Here's a look at the provisional grid for the 2015 Grand Prix of Japan:

Pos. Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:33.015 1:32.632 1:32.584
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:32.844 1:32.789 1:32.660
3 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:34.326 1:33.416 1:33.024
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:34.431 1:33.844 1:33.245
5 Felipe Not Nasr Massa Williams 1:34.744 1:33.377 1:33.337
6 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:34.171 1:33.361 1:33.347
7 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:34.399 1:34.153 1:33.497
8 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus 1:34.398 1:34.278 1:33.967
9 Sergio Perez Force India 1:35.001 1:34.174 No Time
10 Kid Kvyat Red Bull Racing 1:34.646 1:34.201 Whee!!!
11 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:35.328 1:34.390
12 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:34.873 1:34.453
13 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:34.796 1:34.497
14 HWIOANFernando Alonso McLaren 1:35.467 1:34.785
15 Embryo Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:34.522 No Time

16 Jenson Button McLaren 1:35.664

17 Sony Ericsson Sauber 1:35.673

18 Felipe Not Massa Nasr Sauber 1:35.760

19 Will Stevens Manor 1:38.783

NC American Alexander Rossi Manor 1:47.114

No huge shock that Mercedes is back on top of the charts.  Only a very, very minor shock that it's Rosberg, not Hamilton that's on pole.  The two of them had a fantastic battle shaping up, trading fast sectors back and forth.  On their penultimate flying laps, Hamilton was slightly scruffy, making it clear that if he could clean up his lap just a little, he'd have pole.  Then, with one minute left in Q3, this happened:

Just short of Turn 10 Kid Kyval dropped a tire onto the grass, hit the wall, and then his Red Bull dug into the kittylitter.  He actually performed a full roll while airborne, then came to rest right-side up.  The driver was totally unhurt.  However, his attempt at a barrel roll (really, closer to an aileron roll) brought out the red flags with about 40 seconds left in the session.  Since that meant that there was no way for someone to exit the pits and cross the starting line in the time remaining once the session restarted, Q3 was deemed complete and Rosberg the polesitter.

Similarly, Embryo Verstappen suffered electrical failure towards the end of Q1.  While that only brought out yellow flags, that still put paid to many attempts to improve lap times, including Manor's American Rossi.  Indeed, his extant time is so slow (some 14 seconds off the pace) that he will race at the discretion of the stewards.  Normally that's a mere formality, but since Rossi is a new driver, it may not be as cut and dried as normal.  We'll find out eventually.

You may have noticed those two McLaren fans in the earlier post.  It naturally almost goes without saying that the DRS feature of those rear wings DOES function, the top wing flap opening and closing.  Oh, those wacky, F1-crazy Japanese fans...

Race coming in about 20 hours.  F1U! sometime thereafter.  See ya then!

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September 25, 2015

If I Had Other Options...

My internet connection died around 6pm on Thursday.  It didn't come back until sometime Friday afternoon.

If I had any other options, I'd leave this provider in a heartbeat.  I'll go a month or six weeks with zero problems, but then *bam*, their feed to Pond Central will go to hell.  During one ten minute call to tech support, my connection died and reconnected seven times.  And mind you, this is a hard-wired cable modem we're talking about, not wireless.  The tech guy I was working with that time set up a... let's call it a "recording program" on my connection, just to see how often that up-down-up cycle occurred in 24 hours.  When I called back the next night, he said he couldn't tell me how often it had occurred, because the program was only able to count to 200 and it had reached that point in six hours.
However, the service is provided through the Pond Central's apartment complex, and they won't let any other providers in.  So the storage company across the street from the complex has their choice of AT&T and Comcast, but us?  Pfft.  So my only other option is to go with satellite internet, which has the advantages of being both slower AND more expensive.  So I'm stuck.  I hope to be able to bring coverage of Japan's Grand Prix this weekend, but who knows what'll happen to my connection?

While I'm up and running though, I'll mention a couple of bits of information that have come down the pike recently.  First, Haas F1, the American team taking the grid in 2016, will be announcing their driver lineup on Tuesday.  It's already being reported that Lettuce Grosjean will be one of the drivers, a fantastic pickup if true.  This seems likely, particularly in light of the second bit of information: Lotus is in serious financial trouble.  I mean, this isn't exactly news, but it's gotten worse of late.  How bad?  The promoters at Suzuka never set up the team's hospitality center, which among other things is where the mechanics eat when they're at the circuit... and they're usually at the circuit during race weekend.  Seems Lotus couldn't pay that part of their fees.  Bernie Ecclestone is apparently footing their food bill to some extent.  The purchase of the team by Renault is still supposed to happen, but it's taking a lot longer than most expected. 

Right.  Quals are in a few hours, I dunno if I'll have a report up immediately afterwards, or if it'll happen in the morning.  Until then, everybody back on your heads.

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September 22, 2015

F1 on NBCSN: Japan 2015

Right!  From Singapore, it's a mere trifle to get to Japan... just take the daily non-stop to Nagoya, and about seven hours later, voila!  Sushi and... um... stuff... await you!  Oh, and merely my favorite F1 circuit, Suzuka, too.  Let's take a look at the track map:

Nope, no messing around here.  What on some circuits might ruin the flow, instead causes it at Suzuka.  The "S-Curves" are maybe the greatest rhythm section since Neil Peart and Geddy Lee.  You've got Spoon Curve, which has an amazing habit of eating cars and not spitting them back out.  130R is... well, it's fast is what it is, and all of that leads into the Casio Triangle (where old calculators go to die).  It's a lovely mix of fast and slow that rewards both might and nimbleness in nearly equal amounts.  And, hey, it's a Figure-Eight, too! 

Weather at the moment looks rainy for Friday's Practice sessions, but dry the rest of the way.  However, there is a typhoon in the area, so who really knows?  Hopefully it won't be too wet... we don't need that after last year.  What we DO need is the Legendary Announce Team, and they'll be bringin' us the goods followin' the followin' schedule:
Practice 2: 1159pm - 130am live
Quals: 1am - 230am live
2015 Grand Prix of Japan: 1130pm - 2am live

As is usually the case, I'll be along eventually with a F1U! for you... assuming my interwebz allow me to do so.  See ya then, then!

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September 21, 2015

F1 Update: Singapore 2015

A clear night, with no hint of the expected smoke from burning Jakarta forests greeted the F1 Circus as they lined up on the grid... and a scrambled grid it was, with the dominant Mercedes cars on the third row, Ferrari and Red Bull splitting the first two rows between them, and an American in a F1 race for the first time in far too long.  So what happened when the lights went out?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2015 Grand Prix of Singapore!

*THE RACE:  The car was red instead of silver, but otherwise the opening stages of the race looked exactly like most of the rest of the season: the polesitter running away and hiding from the very beginning.  Indeed, Ferrari polesitter Seb Vettel opened up a full three seconds' lead over Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo in the very first lap.  While he never opened up the scary huge gap that the Silver Arrows are known for, it was very clear indeed that it was going to take a mistake from Vettel to give anybody else a chance.  And Seb Vettel didn't become a four-time World Driver Champion by making casual mistakes from the lead.

*AT THE BACK:  American Alexander Rossi sat in the 20th slot on the grid, his Manor purring in the way that only a F1 car can.  The culmination of his life's work was about to occur: he was about to participate in a Formula 1 race and become part of a club more exclusive than the number of people ever to go to space.  That he had practically zero chance of winning didn't matter in the least... at the age of 24, he had reached his dream.  When the race began, his teammate Will Stevens, alongside in 19th, had a less-than-stellar start and Rossi immediately passed him and began hunting 18th.

*CONTINUING:  Vettel had opened up a nearly seven second lead when Felipe Massa exited the pits after a disastrous stop.  A problem getting a tire on had taken too many seconds to fix, and the little Brazilian was undoubtedly annoyed.  He would get even moreso in a moment, for as he pulled out onto the circuit Nico Hulkenberg came steaming into view, determined to take the racing line through Turn 3.  Unfortunately, that's exactly where the white Williams was located, and it wasn't like Massa could teleport somewhere else. 

Hulkenberg meshed tires with Massa, launching himself into a short, eventful flight ending in a broken suspension and much shattered carbon fiber as Massa gestured angrily.  A Virtual Safety Car quickly gave way to the appearance of Berndt Maylander in the real Safety Car, wiping away Seb Vettel's lead.

*AND THEN...:  Daniel Ricciardo knew he had been handed a chance he couldn't throw away.  If he wanted to win this race, he would have to glue himself to Vettel's rear wing on the restart and refuse to let him get away.  Then, and only then, could he make a move to take the lead at Turn 1.  While it seemed the Red Bull was still quicker in the turns than the Ferrari, it wasn't enough to overcome the straight-line speed advantage the red cars had over the purple, but Riccardo knew that if he was ahead, he could pretty much prevent Vettel from getting by.  It was only when the Safety Car pulled off and the Ferrari driver somehow faked the Australian out of his firesuit that Ricciardo realized that he needed to pay more attention to the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen in third place than the Ferrari in front of him.  However, he would soon be handed another chance.

*WHAT THE HELL?:  On Lap 37, frantically waving double-yellow flags told the story: be careful, slow way down and be prepared to stop if necessary.  Almost instantly thereafter, the Safety Car came out again.  And what catastrophe had occurred to cause this flurry of safety activity?

A young man had exited an open marshal's gate, jogged across the circuit, and then took to strolling down the track against the flow of traffic.  Fortunately he did not come close to any car, nor did he hurt himself or others.  Last reports were that he was taken into custody and jailed... in Singapore, a place not well-known for its legal leniency.  For some reason, I can't find it in myself to feel sorry for him.

*OH, HIM?  I SUPPOSE...:  Everybody and their mothers were expecting Lewis Hamilton to bring his Mercedes off the mat and make some sort of try for a podium finish.  After all, that's the way its worked of late.  It never happened.  Oh, he showed good pace, equaling or even bettering Vettel at times, but something wasn't clicking.  Or maybe there was a lot of clicking, as Hamilton retired his car early with a throttle problem.

*ENDINGS:  The second restart went no better for Daniel Ricciardo than the first, and was forced to watch from behind as the Ferrari of Seb Vettel swept across the finish line.  Kimi Raikkonen finished third, putting both Ferrari drivers on a podium for the first time in a very long time indeed.  Nico Rosberg, teammate of Lewis Hamilton and championship rival, finished in fourth, a result that caused little harm to Hamilton's chances of a repeat.

*OH, AND...:  American Alexander Rossi finished in 14th position and ahead of his Manor teammate.  Surviving the Singapore Grand Prix, undoubtedly the toughest on the calendar, and beating your teammate in your first ever F1 race?  It's not exactly the top step of the podium, but it's pretty darn good otherwise.


"Damn, but I'm good.  How ya like me now, Italy?" - Seb Vettel

"If I had an engine, instead of this stupid Renault thing behind me, I coulda taken him." - Daniel Riccardio

"Mrmrmbemememlbl mrmrlrrbrkrlllmlr brmrlrlrrbrbrbrlrmrr." - Kimi Raikkonen

"Well, the tires sucked, the track sucks, the weather sucks, the lights suck, and Singapore sucks.  But Hamilton didn't finish.  It's been a good weekend." - Nico Rosberg

"wellitwasreallyexcitingandivebeenlookingforwardtothisallmylifeanditwaseverythingicouldhave hopedforreallyandidliketothanktheteamforputtingtogethersuchagreatwelcomeandforfixingmycar
talkingpleasedeargodmakeitstopmakeitstopmakeitstopicantbreathe" - American Alexander Rossi

Next up, we head to the Land of the Rising Sun and Suzuka International Circuit!  Should we mention that there's a typhoon coming, just like last year?  Maybe we'll get the Great Suzuka Boat Races again!  See you next week.

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September 19, 2015

F1 Quals: Singapore 2015

Well, this is new.  Here's the grid for the 2015 Grand Prix of Singapore:

Pos. Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:46.017 1:44.743 1:43.885
2 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:46.166 1:45.291 1:44.428
3 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:46.467 1:45.140 1:44.667
4 Kid Kvyat Red Bull Racing 1:45.340 1:44.979 1:44.745
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:45.765 1:45.650 1:45.300
6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:46.201 1:45.653 1:45.415
7 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:46.231 1:45.887 1:45.676
8 Embryo Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:46.483 1:45.635 1:45.798
9 Felipe Not Nasr Massa Williams 1:46.879 1:45.701 1:46.077
10 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus 1:46.860 1:45.805 1:46.413
11 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:46.669 1:46.305
12 HWIOAKAFernando Alonso McLaren 1:46.600 1:46.328
13 Sergio Perez Force India 1:46.576 1:46.385
14 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:46.465 1:46.894
15 Jenson Button McLaren 1:46.891 1:47.019
16 Felipe Not Massa Nasr Sauber 1:46.965

17 Sony Ericsson Sauber 1:47.088

18 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:47.323

19 Will Stevens Manor 1:51.021

20 American Rossi Manor 1:51.523

It isn't that this is the first time eight races that Lewis Hamilton isn't on pole.  It isn't that this is the first time in over a year that a Mercedes isn't on pole.  It's not even that this is the first Ferrari pole in three years, and their first pole in dry conditions in five.  It is about just how soundly the Silver Arrows were trounced.  It's not like "aw shucks, they just nipped us."  This is serious "we kicked your arse" stuff. 

Why did it happen?  Reports are that it's all down to tires.  Mercedes, for whatever reason, cannot get their rear tires to work around the Marina Bay circuit.  They get too hot too quickly, then cool down too far too fast.  They're never in the right temperature zone to provide any grip and as a result, they're "slow" around this turn-happy circuit.  Understand, the Mercs are still the fastest through the speed trap... it's not like their new engines are letting them down.  They had problems in Singapore last year, too, but still ran away with the race because their opponents were weaker.  With Ferrari's improvements, there probably would have been a fight for pole regardless, but nothing like this.

In other news of note, both McLarens made it to Q2, and HWIOAKAFernando Alonso probably was ticketed for a legitimate Q3 appearance when Carlos Sainz did Bad Things to his Toro Rosso, which brought out the yellow flags, which put paid to the Spaniard's hot lap.

And finally, American Alexander Rossi was a half-second behind teammate Will Stevens in matching Manors.  This doesn't sound good, until you realize that Stevens has been driving the car all season and this is really Rossi's first chance to put some serious laps in with it.  The cockpit is also something of a tight fit for the American... as in, "we need lard and shoehorns, stat!"  Hopefully they'll have that part fixed in time for Japan.  Oh, and Rossi desperately needs to work on his speaking skills.  In an interview with the Legendary Announce Team's Will Buxton right after Q1, the American Driver was less intelligible than Kimi "Mumbles" Raikkonen.  He was talking waaaay too fast.  Maybe adrenaline was to blame.

Race tomorrow.

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September 18, 2015

F1U! Has A Favorite Driver Again!

This past Thursday, it was announced that Manor F1 has signed a new driver for five of the last seven races this season.  His name is Alexander Rossi, and he becomes the first American driver in Formula 1 since Scott Speed got in a fight with Franz Tost in 2007.

We immediately rename him to American Alexander Rossi.  He's about to turn 24 (next Friday, as a matter of fact), and has been competing in open-wheel formulae for about five years.  He's currently second in GP2, with a shot at winning it outright.

He's not totally new to F1, however.  He's been the test driver for either Caterham or Marussa since 2012, and was tabbed to take Jules Bianchi's seat after his devastating injury in Japan last year.  Of course, that fell through when Marussia only ran one car in Russia, then not again for the rest of the season.

He's actually the only American to hold a FIA Superlicense right now, too.  We'll follow his progress closely during the rest of the season, though since he's driving for Manor, we're not expecting a whole heckuvalot.   He's decided that 53 will be his official driver number in F1... why that number?

Herbie rides again!

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