April 23, 2014

46

Today, April 23rd, is the 113th day of the year.  The national day of England, St George's Day, is today, as is UNESCO's World Book Day.  More important than either of those, however, is that today is the 100th birthday of Wrigley Field, and there will be celebrations aplenty during the Cubs / Diamondbacks game this afternoon.

In 1968, also in Chicago not far from Wrigley as a matter of fact, a Wonderduck was born unto the world as well.  46 years ago today.

birthday candle
That siren and klaxon just sorta fit the way my brain feels about turning 46.  Ye gods and little fishes.

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April 22, 2014

Mystery Ship XXVII

I dunno, we'll see about this one.  Name this Mystery Ship!

It may be really easy, it may be confusing!  As always, FDM and CTX are in the Masters category, so they can't play yet... but everybody else, take your best shot!  Remember, imagesearch is an abomination unto the eyes of men and ducks.

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April 20, 2014

F1 Update!: China 2014

A grey day greeted the F1 Circus as they settled in on the grid.  It was grey not because of clouds or a chance of rain, but the ever-present layer of smog wafting in from Shanghai, for this was China, and THIS is your F1Update! for the 2014 Grand Prix of China!

*LIGHTS OUT:  Other than mechanical failure or driver error, there was really only one chance for anybody to beat the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton today, and that was to catch him and pin him down quickly.  The problem was, the driver most likely to manage that feat, Nico Rosberg, was sitting in fourth place.  In between the two Mercedes teammates were the two Red Bull pilots, 4Time Vettel in second and Daniel Ricciardo in third.  Neither were particularly inclined to move over, but the RB10's Renault engine simply doesn't have the grunt to keep up with the Merc W05.  However, it's more than powerful enough to keep a car behind them.  A good getaway would be essential for Rosberg... and that's exactly what he didn't get.  The telemetry on his car failed just as the lights began to stage, so the team couldn't tell him exactly what would be the right settings for a good getaway.  He bogged down, dropped down to seventh, then was clubbed by the Williams of Valterri Bottas that surprisingly didn't damage either car.  A couple of years ago would have seen one or both out with shattered suspensions; apparently the teams are making their carbon fiber with a special Wheaties layer.  In any case, it would take Rosberg some 14 laps (and one pit stop) to make it back up to fourth place, and any chance he had to catch his teammate was long, long gone.

*MEANWHILE:  Felipe Massa seems to have a job for himself in drag racing after his F1 career is over.  For the second race in a row, the Williams driver had the greatest reaction of all time off the line.  He swung to the right to get around the wallowing Rosberg, then cut back towards the center of the track to avoid a blocking 4Time Vettel.  He was balked by Ricciardo directly in front of him, and then the Ferrari of HWMNBN bumped into him.  And by "bumped", we mean "uppercut to the chin."  Again, neither car was obviously damaged, though in the time it took Massa to return from Low Earth Orbit, he had lost most of the places he'd gained with his magic start.

*OH, AND...:  By the end of the first lap, Hamilton had a 1.5 second lead over Vettel.  By the end of Lap 6, it was four seconds.  By Lap 9, it was nine seconds and growing by over a second per lap.

*LIVE BY THE START, DIE BY THE STOP
:  Despite his short visit to the ISS, Massa looked like things were still going well.  He was in 8th place, holding back the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, and was looking racy.  All looked normal when he swung into the pits for his first tire change, but things were anything but.  At first it looked like the Williams mechanics were putting the rear tires on the wrong sides (right on left, left on right), but then it became obvious that they had the wrong compound of tires!  Then it became clear that there had been some subtle damage in his encounter with HWMNBN... the left-rear wheel nut refused to come off the tire.  By the time everything was sorted out, what should have been a three-second pit stop had turned into a one-minute-plus nightmare.  Massa would return to the race in 18th, never to be seen again.

*AND THEN...:  Eventually, Rosberg managed to pull himself up the field, disposing of the Red Bulls with ease, then HWMNBN late to take 2nd place.  In the last 10 laps, the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo began to take huge chunks of time off of HWMNBN, looking like he might have had a shot at catching him.  In the end, his tires gave up and he ended the race some four seconds behind the Ferrari.  Remember this, for it will be come important later on.  The Spaniard was some six seconds in arrears to Rosberg.  Rosberg was a distant 18 seconds behind Hamilton, and it seemed like it could have been more if the polesitter had wanted to push the matter.  That makes three wins in a row for Shiv Hamilton, the third time Mercedes has finished 1-2 this season, and the team has won all four races this season so far.  This is disturbing in so many ways, we can't even begin to start.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  HWMNBN.  The Ferrari F14T just isn't that good of a car.  Oh, it's perfectly okay, but it isn't really a podium contender.  UNLESS the driver is HWMNBN, who can take a less-than-stellar chassis and make it good.  Right now, the best anybody that isn't in a Mercedes can do is third, and that's exactly where HWMNBN brought his Ferrari this race, when by all rights it should be somewhere around sixth or seventh.  THAT'S a drive.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  Mercedes.  The first time since 2004 that a team has had three 1-2 finishes in a row, and that car, Ferrari's F2004, is probably on the short list of best F1 car ever.  Completely dominant.

*MOMENT OF THE RACE
:  On Lap 23, Rosberg passed 4Time Vettel for 3rd place, but it wasn't easy.  Vettel fought the pass tooth-and-nail, but couldn't quite keep the Mercedes back... and the struggle allowed Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo to close up tight to the back of Vettel.  The two were on different strategies, and Ricciardo had fresher tires to boot.  As they crossed the start/finish line for Lap 24, Ricciardo was a mere .230 seconds behind.  Half a lap later, the call came from the pit wall: "4Time, let Daniel (Ricciardo) through, please.  Let him through."  Ominously, Vettel didn't respond.  Finally, Vettel asked "What tires is he on?"  "Primes, same as you."  Vettel, in defiance of team orders, came back with "Tough luck."   It took another lap or so, but Ricciardo managed to force the issue and get past.  In the two or three laps involved, however, Nico Rosberg had managed to run away and hide to the tune of nearly six seconds.  How much time did he lose behind Vettel just because 4Time threw a little temper tantrum?  Certainly enough to have made a difference at the end of the race... he may not have been able to get past HWMNBN, but it wouldn't have been a four second gap.  Good job, 4Time!

*SELECTED DRIVER QUOTES OF THE RACE:

more...

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April 19, 2014

F1 Quals: China 2014

If it's a Quals session, that must mean it's damp out there... only Bahrain this year hasn't had some form of rain during Quals.  So, who'd the rain help, who'd it hurt, and which Venezuelan Lotus driver is literally hated by his team?  Let's take a look at the provisional grid for the 2014 Grand Prix of China:

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Shiv Hamilton Mercedes 1:55.516 1:54.029 1:53.860
2 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:56.641 1:55.302 1:54.455
3 4Time Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:55.926 1:54.499 1:54.960
4 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:56.058 1:55.294 1:55.143
5 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:56.961 1:55.765 1:55.637
6 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1:56.850 1:56.757 1:56.147
7 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1:56.501 1:56.253 1:56.282
8 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:55.913 1:56.847 1:56.366
9 Jules Vergne STR-Renault 1:57.477 1:56.584 1:56.773
10 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:58.411 1:56.407 1:57.079
11 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:58.279 1:56.860
12 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:57.783 1:56.963
13 Kid Kvyat STR-Renault 1:57.261 1:57.289
14 Adrian F'n Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 1:58.138 1:57.393
15 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 1:57.369 1:57.675
16 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1:58.362 1:58.264
17 Esteban! Sauber-Ferrari 1:58.988

18 Gandalf Kobayashi Caterham-Renault 1:59.260

19 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 1:59.326

20 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 2:00.646

21 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 2:00.865

DNQ Crashtor Maldozer Lotus-Renault No time


Q1 107% Time
2:03.602


 Rosberg was all set to be second, at least, on his final run when the wet pavement reached up and sent him into a spin at the last corner... so surprisingly, Mercedes was hurt by the rain.  It certainly helped the Red Bulls, who are, apparently, 12mph slower than the Merc-powered cars on the long back straight.  The thinking is that they need rain to fight for pole, and it worked this time.  But look at those Williams lurking back there, and imagine them both finishing ahead of the energy drink team.

Meanwhile, who the heck knows what's going to happen with HWMNBN and Ferrari?  Is that the legit pace of the F14T, or is that all down to the Spaniard behind the wheel.  His Finnish counterpart was having problems with his steering and his downshifts, so his 11th might actually be GOOD.

Then there's the sad story of the Lotus mechanics and driver Crashtor Maldozer.  In P1, he nearly drove into a wall as he fiddled with a knob on his steering wheel.  As it was, he managed to only spin and humiliate himself.  In P2, he drove into the pit entry... and directly into the protective barrier on the outside of the pit turn, snapping his suspension like a stale pretzel.  "I crash," he called to the pit wall.  "Oh. (pause)  Okay," came the response like an audible facepalm.  In P3, his engine broke... it was probably his fault.  I don't know how, but it probably was.  I have a feeling that Lotus would be happy to jettison his awful, awful driving arse, but he's got 33 million reasons for them to let him stay.

Since he DNQ'd, he races at the approval of the Stewards.  Alas, they've decided to let him in.

Race in the very early morning... see you then!

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April 17, 2014

Figma #2: Wait, Is That...?

You know what this is, right?

Yep, it's a kickass scarf.  Or, more correctly, it's THE kickass scarf.  Some of you have sat up in your chair, eyes wide, knowing what's about to come.  The rest of you are probably a little confused, and I don't blame you.  Fret not, dear reader, all will be revealed in mere moments.  Just click "more", and let the emotions wash over you.  G'wan, do it.  You know you want to.  Everybody else is doin' it... you don't want to be the only weirdo, do ya?


more...

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April 16, 2014

Still More Trigger Discipline

One for the bunch over at Steven's Place:

Don't get much more safe than that.

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April 15, 2014

F1 on NBCSN: China 2014

Sorry I'm a little late with this, but Pond Central has had internet problems since Saturday night/Sunday morning.  It wasn't completely out, but something even worse: it was really, really slow.  As in, "45 seconds to a minute to load a page."  Just alive enough to make you hope, just dead enough to crush your dreams.  Thankfully, I was able to send my taxes via the Duck U Bookstore's system.

But I digress... you're here to hear about this week's race!  This time, the stop is the Shanghai International Circuit, located in the Jiading District of the world's largest city by population, Shanghai, China.  Despite the incredible number of people living there, somehow the government managed to find enough empty space to build a circuit.  Here's the track map:

Okay, yes, it's a Tilkedrome.  Despite that, China has occasionally coughed up a decent race or two.  Rain is useful for that, of course, and there's a chance on Sunday, but nothing I'd put money on.  So it's down to the track... and the new-formula cars, too.  THAT'S where it all hinges, and the way things are going this year, I'd not bet against this being a good race.

It'll still be a Mercedes HappyFest, though.  Unless something has drastically changed in the past couple of weeks, there's nothing standing in the way of the Mercedes-powered teams to dominate this race.  Except for reliability, of course; it's hard to go fast when your engine is spitting pistons into the stratosphere.  That's not something we can really predict so I'll just ignore it altogether.

Fortunately for everybody, I'M not the person calling the race.  That task falls to the Pros from Dover, the (not as) Legendary Announce Team!  Here's when they'll be doing their usual great coverage:
FRIDAY
P2: 1a - 230a live
SATURDAY
Quals: 1a - 230a live
SUNDAY
Grand Prix of China: 130a - 4a live

Of course, F1Update! will be all over the race like a cheap suit on rice.  See ya then!

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April 13, 2014

USF1 Redux?

A few years ago, there was an attempt to start an American Formula 1 team.  To be called USF1, it was a project from Peter (Smarmy) Windsor, former Williams and Ferrari manager, and Ken Anderson, a former NASCAR technical director.  It failed miserably, never completing a chassis, never turning a wheel, suffering from mismanagement and funding impossibilities. 

But yet, why couldn't there be an American F1 team?  It's not like there's any lack of technical ability here in the States, nor any shortage of cash or driving skill.  What is needed is a competent management staff with active ties to the racing world.

Those of us longing for an American F1 team on the grid may have just had our wishes granted.  NASCAR Sprint Cup team owner Gene Haas, longtime motorsports guy, just had his application to join the F1 grid in 2015 approved by the FIA.  The team, tentatively called Haas Racing Developments, may be based in North Carolina, home of Stewart-Haas Racing, the NASCAR team.

Very few details exist as of yet outside of what I've just mentioned.  As usual, the thought is that there'll be an all-American driver lineup, which while admirable, is also wrong for a new team.  Currently, the number of active American drivers with Formula 1 experience beyond a few testing laps is limited to one: Scott Speed.  What a team needs is someone who knows how a F1 car should feel so the pit wall can make it feel that way.  Scott Speed, while American, was nobody's idea of a testing genius.  No, there should be at least one driver with serious F1 history on the team, and that means foreign... and preferably someone with financial backing of their own, sad to say.  The two things any team needs is skill and money, and a new team needs a lot of both.

I'm not going to get excited yet.  It'll be too easy for this venture to fail the way USF1 did.  I'm much more encouraged by the people involved, but they don't even have an engine lined up yet.  My guess is that they'll have the new Honda powerunit, but who knows?  I'd really like to see this succeed, though.  I'd love to root for a team again.

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April 09, 2014

Turret-kun Has A Friend

You may remember that a few weeks ago, I hired Turret-kun to defend Nori, my computer against the sort of things that threaten computers in my fevered little brain.  Just what might require the strengths of a semi-anthropomorphized kawaii 5" gun turret floating on a life preserver to protect a computer is beyond me, but you never know.  It wasn't until recently, however, that I discovered that Turret-kun was lonely.  Oh, sure, he had that great smile, but it felt painted on.  Inside, I was sure, Turret-kun needed someone to serve.  So I arranged for Nori to join him.

Nori is, as some of you may have guessed, a Figma.  #201, as a matter of fact: Sae from Hidamari Sketch.  Wait, what?  The nice thing about Figmas is that they often come with simply amazing amounts of modification options.  This one, for example, came with two faces for Sae, an extra pair of glasses, ten extra hands in various positions... and the ability to turn her into Nori!  Compared to some, that's actually a fairly sparse amount of options.  It actually took a few days for me to decide to get it... Figmas aren't exactly cheap... but in the end I broke down.  They're not cheap, but they aren't all that expensive, either.  Which is why I picked up three other Figmas, which will appear here at The Pond soon enough.  Just for the record, though?  They haven't made a Rio Figma yet.  I think I'm a little sad about that.

A bigger pic of Nori and Turret-kun is just a simple click away!

more...

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April 07, 2014

F1 Update!: Bahrain 2014

The sun was sinking in the west as the Mumbling Herd pulled up on the front straight.  Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg sat on pole, his teammate Shiv Hamilton poised next to him.  This was normal.  Behind them, however, the goofy side of F1 had reared its head: the Williams of Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Perez's Force India made up the second row, and nowhere to be seen were the Red Bull duo.  But would it last?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2014 Grand Prix of Bahrain.

*LIGHTS OUT:  To say the first lap of this race was exciting would be understating the case.  When the lights were extinguished, all manner of hoo-hah (technical F1 term) broke loose.  For example, Felipe Massa got the jump of a lifetime from seventh and found himself in third by the first turn, while Hamilton managed to take first from his teammate, but only after the two of them went hammer-and-tongs with each other.  Up and down the field, you saw ridiculously successful moves, enough tire smoke to eliminate malaria from the Earth, all of it accompanied by showers of sparks caused by the dragging of legality planks, a sight we don't see that often during the day.  Even when Jules Vergne's Toro Rosso crawled into the pits with a rear tire shredded, we had excitement as he got on the radio saying that he had been hit by "...the crazy Lotus guy.  I don't know who it is.  Absolutely mental!"  (Mr Maldonado, please pick up the red courtesy phone.)  The F1U! analysis team just sort of fell about the place at that one.  Little did we know...

*MIDRACE: Things more or less settled down after three or four laps, which allowed everybody to catch their breath and notice that the two Mercedes cars had opened up a three-second gap to third-place Felipe Massa.  A gap that, ominously, continued to grow: nine seconds after eight laps, nearly 14 seconds after 13 laps.  Rosberg continued to bird-dog Hamilton, bouncing back and forth between a half-second behind and over a full second.  It was obvious that, barring incident, the race was firmly in the hands of the Silver Arrows.  Things got really weird on Lap 16 when the Red Bull pit wall got on the radio to 4Time Vettel... and told him to pull over and let his teammate Daniel Ricciardo go by, as he was faster and stood a better chance to catching the lead pack. 

*SAFETY CAR:  That's pretty much the way it stayed for most of the race... Shiv Hamilton leading Nico Rosberg, with everybody else fighting for third.  We also got the wonderful image of Luca di Montezemelo, Chairman of Ferrari, turning away in disgust as HWMNBN was blown away by a Force India.  And then the entire race changed as a Safety Car was called out (see "Moment of the Race", below), bunching the entire field back up and giving the field hope that, this time perhaps they could keep the Mercedes duo in the same area code.  The long, long Safety Car period saw pit walls up and down the paddock rubbing their hands together in anticipation: plenty of fuel for the final 10-lap dash to the checkered flag.  Even the F1U! historian, dozing on the lounge after the completion of his massage, roused himself for this one.

*GO FAST:  The restart proved to be anticlimactic in one way: the Silver Arrows went screaming off into the night, opening a four second lead in a single lap.  Part of that was simply because the two Mercedes were just faster than everybody else.  The other part, though, is that positions three through nine were held by five Mercedes-powered cars and the two Red Bulls.  They were so busy attacking and defending against each other, sometimes at the same time, that nobody had the time to try and drive perfectly and thus catch up to the top two.  This melee caused the TV Director no end of headaches as once again, Hamilton and Rosberg were once again going tooth-and-nail with each other.  Indeed, it was getting so tight that Paddy Lowe, Merc Tech Director, got on the radio to both his drivers to point out that it'd be best to get both cars to the finish, as opposed to one or both in the fence or as scattered pieces of carbon fiber.  It's good that he reminded them of this, because it was only a few laps later that the two of them had their tires overlapped... just think what would have happened if they weren't told to be careful.  The two of them would continue to race until the end, with Hamilton leading Rosberg across the line by just under a second... and 24 seconds ahead of third place.

*BUT:  Back in third place, Force India's Sergio Perez had opened a tiny gap between himself and the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo, but it was quickly fading with but a few laps left.  Meanwhile, in fifth place, Force India's Nico Hulkenberg had 4Time Vettel staring at his rear wing, just begging for a single mistake that his fading RB10 could exploit.  It never came, though.  Just ahead of them, Ricciardo was doing everything he could think of to get past Perez on the last lap.  The F1U! crew admits to rooting for Force India in ways usually reserved for the Chicago Cubs.  The wishes and hopes of us (and most of the rest of the world, it must be admitted) guided Perez across the finish line 4/10th of a second ahead of Ricciardo.  The two Williams drivers crossed the line behind Vettel, at least close enough to see him.  Third through 10th places were covered by nine seconds, bringing a great race to a close.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  As much as we wish to give this to Sergio Perez, Shiv Hamilton deserves it more.  While he led all but three laps, his teammate Nico Rosberg was always right there, grimly hanging onto his rear wing, looking for any chance to mug him for first place.  It never came.  When Rosberg forced the issue, Hamilton wasn't afraid to hip-check him into the Persian Gulf if need be.  It looked easy, it was anything but.

*TEAM OF THE RACE
:  Nope, not Mercedes.  Force India got their first podium since 2009 and their best two-car finish ever.  Break open those Kingfishers, guys, you deserve 'em!

*MOMENT OF THE RACE:  On Lap 41, Candy Maldonado swung into the pits for his final tire change.  Upon exiting, he managed to drive directly into the side of the Sauber of Esteban!  The weird twin-tusk of the Lotus went right under the side of the Sauber, with the effect that you might think:

After the Sauber stopped flipping, flopping and flooping, Esteban! managed to key his radio to plaintively ask "What was that?!?"  THAT was the Maldozer, Esteban!.   The accident brought out the Safety Car, which gave us the exciting race end, thereby earning the Moment of the Race!

*SELECTED DRIVER QUOTES OF THE RACE
:

more...

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April 06, 2014

F1U Bahrain Delayed

The Grand Prix of Bahrain was great, just entertaining from beginning to end, and I can't bring myself to do the writeup. 

The events of this past Thursday... well.  Let's just say I was in the store both Saturday and Sunday, and trying to do something serious like the F1U!, even for arguably the best dry race we've had in a couple of years, just makes me sad.

I want to do it.  I just can't see myself doing something serious right now.  Sorry, people, I know you're looking for it.

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April 05, 2014

F1 Quals: Bahrain 2014

It didn't rain.  I mean, duh, of course, it's Bahrain, but I needed to make sure the weather situation was known and understood before I showed you the grid for tomorrow's race.  Because, y'know what?  It's a doozy!  Let's take a look at the starting lineup for the 2014 Grand Prix of Bahrain:

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:35.439 1:33.708 1:33.18
2 Shiv Hamilton Mercedes 1:35.323 1:33.872 1:33.464
3 Unlucky Ricciardo Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:36.220 1:34.592 1:34.051
4 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1:34.934 1:34.842 1:34.247
5 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1:34.998 1:34.747 1:34.346
6 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:35.234 1:34.925 1:34.368
7 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:35.699 1:34.714 1:34.387
8 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1:35.085 1:34.842 1:34.511
9 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 1:35.288 1:34.904 1:34.712
10 HWMNBN
Ferrari 1:35.251 1:34.723 1:34.992
11 4Time Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:35.549 1:34.985
12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:34.874 1:35.116
13 Kid Kvyat STR-Renault 1:35.395 1:35.145
14 Jules Vergne STR-Renault 1:35.815 1:35.286
15 Esteban!
Sauber-Ferrari 1:36.567 1:35.891
16 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:36.654 1:35.908
17 Williams Maldonado Lotus-Renault 1:36.663

18 Adrian F'n Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 1:36.840

19 Gandalf Kobayashi Caterham-Renault 1:37.085

20 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 1:37.310

21 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 1:37.875

22 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 1:37.913


Q1 107% Time
1:41.515

Okay, let's go over this.  Red Bull's Unlucky Ricciardo is taking a 10-spot penalty after his travails at Malaysia, so he'll be 13th.  This makes the second row of the grid Williams - Force India.  This is the greatest season ever.  Meanwhile, 4Time Vettel, Mr "I've been on pole every race for the past 17 years", couldn't even make it out of Q2.  Greatest.  Season.  Ever.

The only way it could get better would be to have either Caterham or (ugh) Marussia score their first points.  It'll happen.  It'll happen, probably Marussia.

Then again, I'd really like to see Williams or FIndia win on Sunday.  It won't happen, of course... the Mercedes boys have too big an advantage... but it'd be nice.  Here's how bad it was: during Q1 4Time turned a 1:35.549 on the soft tires, which have about a 1.5 second advantage over the hards here this race.  Shiv Hamilton in Q1 went 1:35.323.

Using the hard tires.

Make no mistake, my friends: tomorrow's race is going to one of the Mercedes drivers, barring malfunctions.  The race is going to be for third, and I SO want to see Williams on that podium.

Anybody but Red Bull, actually.

Race is at 10am Pond Central... bring the bagels and lox and make a morning of it!

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April 04, 2014

F1 Practice: Bahrain 2014

"I don't understand any of it!" - Kid Kyviat (note: real quote)

Now THAT'S how you do a night race.  Forget the city-style tracks in Singapore and Abu Dhabi (particularly the back half), there in Bahrain they drop a race track in the middle of the desert, prop up a bunch of LED flashlights on ladders, wrap everything in Christmas tree light strands and hey presto!

I jest, but I am serious about one thing: it looks awful purty.

It also races differently than it has in the past.  Ambient air temps were about 30 degrees cooler during P2 than P1, which ran at roughly the same time as last year's race.  More importantly, the track surface is also dramatically cooler, which means it takes longer for the tires to come up to grip temps.  Which meant a lot of missed braking points, even more smoked rubber, and more than a few heading off towards the King Fahd Causeway, drivers madly attempting to bring their steeds under control.

Mercedes is still the class of the field, apparently because their turbocharger is cleft in twain, with the compressor at one end of the engine and the turbine at the other.  The two bits are joined together by a shaft that runs through the "V" of the cylinders.  Through whatever magic was used, this means less turbo lag.  It also moves more weight forward in the car body, requires less cooling, is biodegradable, will walk your dog, likes to cuddle, and is an all-around good egg.

Or something like that.  Of course, Williams and Force India get the same benefits, but since they haven't had the engines as long as the team that built them, their windfall has been less.  So far.  Surprisingly, Red Bull hasn't screamed about cheating yet.

There's still time.  Quals in the morning, though the writeup may not be until late afternoon... putting some time in at the store.  See you then.

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April 03, 2014

Hey, Wonderduck!

Hey, Wonderduck!  How was your day at work?

Oh.  Really?  That bad, huh?

'K... just gonna go stand over here... very far away from you, that okay, Wonderduck?

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April 01, 2014

Fools, Fools All...

Good to see that Steven's readers are paying attention to the calendar!  Personally, I would never ever stoop to such a low tactic.

Never ever.

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March 31, 2014

F1 on NBCSN: Bahrain 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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March 30, 2014

F1 Update!: Malaysia 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*SELECTED DRIVER QUOTES OF THE RACE:

more...

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March 29, 2014

As Seen On Texas Baseball Town!

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

------------------------------------------------

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

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

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

And then there's Mike Olt. 

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

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

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

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

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F1 Quals: Malaysia 2014

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

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

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

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

19 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 2:02.702

20 Gandalf Kobayashi Caterham-Renault 2:03.595

21 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 2:04.388

22 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 2:04.407


Q1 107% Time
2:05.385


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

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

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

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

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March 28, 2014

2014 Malaysia Practice Writeup Not Happening

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

F1's version of tentacle porn.

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

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