October 24, 2016

The Crying Of The Catgirls: SDB

Steven Den Beste was not the reason I became a blogger.

But if it wasn't for him, I wouldn't have been a blogger for long.  I began Wonderduck's Pond back in July of 2005, primarily as a way to entertain the Official First Reader of The Pond, Mallory, with expanded versions of the Formula 1 emails I sent her.  Along the way, I began to work some anime into the mix.  The Pond muddled along, read by practically nobody, for a couple of years.

And then something odd happened.  Steven linked to one of my posts and people came from Chizumatic to read it.  Then he did it again.  And again.  Every time he did, people came to read what he linked, some stayed around, and by The Pond's glory years of 2010/11, I was getting perhaps 5000 real hits/day.

I doubt that he ran an intentional campaign to send readers here, but that was the effect.  Because HE had a loyal fanbase that made almost all other animeblogs look small.  A link from him would be a boon for a small blog.  A permanent place on his small blogroll made you.  I was tremendously flattered when he put The Pond there ten years ago.

Which is not to say that all was sweetness and light.  He and I had a few arguments, some blog-based, some e-mail.  He could be an irascible old coot, entirely unwilling to change his opinion on something once he got it in his head.  He refused to say much about his health... when I e-mailed him once to see how he was doing, he wrote back saying that people who asked that weren't really interested so he wouldn't say.  I suspect a lot of his "cootness" stemmed from his old USS Clueless days, when he was hated by roughly half the blogosphere.  Death threats weren't unheard of.  And if you knew what's best for you, you never ever made suggestions.

All of this was part of a brilliant thinker that also had the ability to take those thoughts and write them legibly.  He didn't do straight humor very much, perhaps his only weakness and perhaps the only category I would say I was at least his equal in.  Everything else, however?  There's a reason he was one of the first bloggers to wind up published semi-occasionally in the mainstream media.  When I started The Pond, one of my conscious decisions was to never write about politics.  There were plenty of people writing about politics out there, and they were infinitely better at it than myself.  When I thought that, I was thinking about Steven in particular.

Over the years, I know he and I became friends despite never having met.  He became a Formula 1 fan due to my writings, almost against his will.  When I first thought about closing this place down, he was the first to say that he'd miss reading what I wrote.  Imagine that: a legend of the medium saying he'd miss my writing.  He was a willing participant in the continuing story of the Anatidae Liberation Front, a bit of whimsy that never failed to amuse the hell out of me.  His last comment here at The Pond was about the history of failure that surrounds the Cubs, a common theme from him. 

This afternoon brought the news that the man I was pleased to call my friend, Steven Den Beste, had passed away. 

I'm going to miss reading what he wrote.

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October 23, 2016

F1 Update!: United States 2016

The clear blue sky was a far sight from what greeted the F1 Circus last year as they pulled onto the grid of Circuit of the Americas.  As usual, Lewis Hamilton led the field, with his teammate Nico Rosberg right beside him.  Behind them, the surging Red Bulls lurked.  Could they derail the championship fight going on between the two Mercedes drivers?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2016 United States Grand Prix!

*LIGHTS OUT:  To be honest, the race was decided at the very beginning.  Once the race started, Hamilton galloped away, but Rosberg got swamped by the Red Bull of Smiley Ricciardo.  He fell to third, and nearly fourth as Embryo Verstappen threatened his position as well.  And that's the way it stayed for nearly half the race.

*SCREWUP:  On Lap 25, Ricciardo pitted from second for a new set of tires.  Nothing out of the ordinary there.  On the next lap, though, Verstappen drove into the pit lane... and there was nobody there for him.  The team recovered quickly, swarming into the Red Bull pit box just as he approached the spot, but they were essentially unprepared for the young driver.  The stop took nearly 10 seconds to complete, which sounds fast, but when 2.50 seconds is the norm... well.  As he pulled back onto the track he was on the radio: "I'm sorry, I thought you told me to box (pit)."  Simple driver error deep-sixed his race.  A few laps later, he unintentionally deep-sixed his teammate's race as well.

*BLOWUP:  On Lap 30, Verstappen's Red Bull was spotted going very slowly down the long back straight.  A cut to the onboard camera made the problem quite clear: a loud thumping sound was coming from the engine.  "I have an engine problem or something" was the radio call.  In fact, it was his gearbox turning itself into a bunch of neutrals.  In fact, first gear was the only one remaining, and he could not get into the actual neutral.  As this is required for trackworkers to get the car behind the walls, even though Verstappen had stopped just in front of an access point Race Control had to issue a Virtual Safety Car so marshals could deal with the recalcitrant vehicle.  Not a big deal normally... but neither Mercedes had stopped for tires yet.  In effect, they got a free stop, allowing Rosberg to easily jump Ricciardo on the rotation.  After that, it was all over but the shouting.

:  While there was still half the race distance to complete, nothing of any importance happened up front.  Lewis Hamilton won his 50th Grand Prix, his seventh victory of the year, and his fourth out of five races at COTA.  However, Nico Rosberg finished second, five seconds behind, limiting his teammate's point gain in the Championship.  He still has a 26-point lead with three races to go... and you get 25 points for first, 18 for second.  Essentially, Hamilton needs Rosberg to have a breakdown to have a chance of repeating as Driver's Champion.  Smiley Ricciardo finished a distant third, Ferrari's Seb Vettel was fourth over a half-lap back of the leader, and Fernando Alonso's McLaren was fifth even though he could probably see Hamilton's Merc in his side mirrors when the race ended.  And in the feelgood story of the race, American team HaasF1 scored a point at their home race when Lettuce Grosjean came home in 10th.

So that's it from a lackluster USGP.  Next weekend is the second running of the reborn Grand Prix of Mexico.  We'll see you then.

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October 22, 2016

Cubswatch 2016: Seven!

The Chicago Cubs are going to the World Series.

Holy crepe, I don't believe I finally got to type those words.

Kyle Hendricks threw a gem against the Dodgers tonight, pitching 7.1 innings of shutout baseball.  He was relieved by Aroldis Chapman, who got a sweet double play to end the game.  On offense, they beat the crepe out of the best pitcher in baseball, hitting two homers and scoring five runs off Clayton Kershaw.  It was never close.

Next up, the Cubs will be facing the Cleveland Indians.  First game of the World Series will be Tuesday.  Seven down, four to go!



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F1 Quals: United States 2016

Time is running low on the 2016 season, and Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, reigning driver's champion, is in serious trouble.  His teammate has a 30+ point lead and holds all the cards.  Hamilton needs to win out and hope something goes wrong with his teammate, but to win out, you've basically got to be on pole when the light go out.  So how'd Quals for the 2016 United States Grand Prix work out?  Here's the provisional grid:

Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:36.296 1:36.450 1:34.999
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:36.397 1:36.351 1:35.215
3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:36.759 1:36.255 1:35.509
4 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:36.613 1:36.857 1:35.747
5 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:36.985 1:36.584 1:36.131
6 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:37.151 1:36.462 1:36.358
7 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes 1:36.950 1:36.626 1:36.628
8 Valtteri Bottas Williams Mercedes 1:37.456 1:37.202 1:37.116
9 FelipeRetired  Massa Williams Mercedes 1:37.402 1:37.214 1:37.269
10 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:37.744 1:37.175 1:37.326
11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:37.345 1:37.353
12 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 1:37.913 1:37.417
13 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:37.844 1:37.480
14 Esteban! Haas Ferrari 1:38.053 1:37.773
15 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:38.084 1:37.935
16 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:38.040 1:39.356
17 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:38.308

18 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:38.317

19 Jenson Retired Button McLaren Honda 1:38.327

20 Pascal's Wehrlein MRT Mercedes 1:38.548

21 FelipeNot Retired Nasr Sauber Ferrari 1:38.583

22 False Esteban MRT Mercedes 1:38.806

The two Merc drivers split the first two Qual sessions.  Perhaps importantly, Rosberg was fastest in the second session.  This is important because the top 10 have to start on the tires they used for their fastest lap in Q2... and unlike everybody else, the Mercs used the Soft tires while everybody else used the Supersofts.  So in theory, Rosberg will have the advantage in at least the first stint.

Beyond them, Two-by-Two is was the rule of the day with only a wayward Force India to break up the first eight slots symmetry.  Major disappointment for American team HaasF1, who were chasing gremlins all practice.  Maybe things will go better for the race tomorrow afternoon!  Look for it on NBC-the-mother-network, and sometime thereafter, F1U!

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October 20, 2016

Cubswatch 2016: Six!

21 innings without scoring a run has been forgotten, that's for sure!

Addison Russell hit his second homer in two nights to give the Cubs a 3-1 lead in the sixth inning. Two innings later, they broke it open with five runs, and ultimately cruised to a 8-4 victory over the Dodgers.  They now have a three-games to two lead in this best of seven series as the NLCS moves back to Wrigley for a possible clinching game on Saturday.  Six down, five to go!


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Cubswatch 2016: Finally Five!

The last two games in this here NLCS were kinda grim.  The first time the Cubs had ever been shut out two games running in the playoffs.  Including the first few innings of this game, they reached 21 straight innings without scoring a run.  And then this happened:

Now that's the curbstompin' Cubs we've come to know and love during the regular season!  More importantly, Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell, both mired in post-season long slumps, broke out tonight.  Both went deep to lead the team to victory and tied the series 2 - 2.  Seeing Rizzo start to hit is good news for the Cubbies indeed, for while Kris Bryant is probably going to be the MVP of the league, Rizzo is the guy that leads the team.  With him hitting, this team just doesn't lose very often.  Five down, six to go!

Get it?

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October 19, 2016

F1 on TV: United States 2016

Y'all put your Stetsons and cowboy boots on, grab a handful of shootin' iron, jump in your pickup truck (RED TRUCK!) and drive your herd just southeast of central Texas to that lil' ol' town called Austin.  But be careful, there's gonna be a buncha furriners there, because the circus is in town... the Formula 1 Circus, that is!  C'mon down to the Circuit of the Americas, home of the United States Grand Prix!  Take a gander at the track map:

Today, tomorrow and forever, the best of the new circuits.  Blatantly stealing Borrowing the best concepts from other tracks around the world, COTA is just about everything you'd want from a FIA Class 1 circuit.  Plenty of run-off area surrounds the track itself while the facility has the world's only Emergency Room located at a race track to go along with the 5500 sq ft medical center (which is fully prepared to deal with exotic diseases like malaria and ebola.  Yes, really).  But best of all is what isn't going to be coming to Austin this year.

Yep, it was just last year that Hurricane Patricia hit the western coast of Mexico, then tracked up north.  That meant rain and lots of it: nearly a foot of rain in a couple of days, to the point the 2015 USGP nearly got rained out.  As it was, the whole weekend was borked up... just take a look at the goings-on on Saturday for a reminder of what it was like.

As is usual for a home race, the Legendary Announce Team will be on-site and bringing us coverage of every session during the weekend!  Here's a look at the broadcast schedule:
Practice 1: 10a - 1130a  live on NBCSN
Practice 2: 2p - 330p  live on NBCSN
Practice 3-Intermission-Quals: 1130a - 3p  live on NBCSN
2016 United States Grand Prix:  130p - 4p  live on NBC

All times are Pond Central, of course.  On a personal note, I tried to get Friday off from work, but because of a mandatory event I couldn't manage it.  I did manage to get the afternoon off though, so I'll be parked in the Official Comfy Chair of The Pond for P2!  Saturday and Sunday, of course, are givens.

So there we have it: the USGP!  I'm looking forward to this one, if for no other reason that it'll be the first time HaasF1 has been home.  Points would be nice, guys!

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October 18, 2016

Your Weekly Asuka, S2E02

This week, the second season of Hibike! Euphonium presents us with a staple of "group" shows: a training camp!  The entire band will secrete themselves away for multiple days and do nothing but practice, practice, practice!  Of course, it never works out that way: there's always downtime for hijinks to occur.  But before that, there's a mandatory three-day break enforced by the school.  Whatever will our main characters do during a short summer vacation?  Why, go to the pool, of course!  I have to admit, I didn't expect a swimsuit episode in this series, but hey, I'm not complaining.

No, not complaining in the least.  Kumiko is, though... she has no idea who this strange girl that's molesting her is! 

Oh.  Now she knows.  It's the Goofy Cute, in full effect!  A nice lighthearted moment in an otherwise pretty serious episode.  It's also practically the last time we see Asuka until very late in the episode.  Which is amazing, because the episode from this point on spends its time describing the events of last year that saw most of the second-year club members quit, and Asuka's role therein.

In other words, it's yet another episode where she's the main character mostly without showing up.  Yet, despite all of this, we still don't really know why she's so opposed to letting that one second-now-third-year student rejoin the club.  The good news is that it seems we'll be getting that info in the next episode.

While this is all well and good, I'm still looking forward to THE Asuka Episode.  It's gotta be coming.  KyoAni can't be setting all this up just to ignore the payoff, right?

Ridiculously pretty shot of the episode:

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October 15, 2016

Cubswatch 2016: Four!

When everybody is looking up and out...

...say it with me: you know it's gone.  The Dodgers intentionally loaded the bases with two outs to bring up the pitcher's spot in the order.  Which, at the moment, was occupied by the Cubs ace closer Aroldis Chapman.  Manager Joe Maddon brought in pinch-hitter Miguel Montero.  There was some question as to whether Montero would make the roster for the NLCS, for he was suffering from a sore back, but he talked his way on.  And then he hit a pinch-hit grand slam on a 0-2 count, putting the Cubs ahead 7-3. 

If you've followed the Cubs this season, you knew what was coming.  They've already hit a granny, why not add on?  Center fielder Dexter Fowler, who had already had a spectacular catch under his belt, went back-to-back to make make it 8-3.  That the Dodgers scored a run in the top of the ninth meant nothing in the end.  The Cubs won it 8-4, in a game that also had a Javy Baez steal of home.  Four down, seven to go!


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October 14, 2016


I bumped into this picture the other day, thought it quite amazing how it shows forces at work on a F1 car.

Let's be perfectly clear about this: there is nothing wrong with this Mercedes.  Aerodynamics and G-forces alone have hucked the car over to the left.  The tires are doing their job of pretending to be shock absorbers.  The roll to the left is being mirrored on the right, picking the front right off the ground as the rear left compresses.  And underneath, the titanium skid plate is performing its secondary duty of a sparkler.

All and all, a truly remarkable shot.

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October 11, 2016

Cubswatch 2016: And THAT Makes Three!

Last night, the Giants beat the Cubs in 13 innings to stay alive in the NLDS.  Tonight, they were ahead 5-2 in the 9th inning, at home, with their closer coming in.

And then magic occurred.

The Cubs scored four runs in the top of the 9th, their closer, Aroldis Chapman, came in and struck out the side, and not one pitch was below 100mph.  Next up is the winner of the Dodgers / Nationals series.  The NLCS starts Saturday.  Three down, eight to go.

#FlyTheW... in McCovey Cove

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Your Weekly Asuka, S2E01

Wonder of wonders, Hibike! Euphonium is back for a very welcome second season.  Not only is it back, but Kyoto Animation has blessed us with an hour-long first episode to boot.  Pleasantly, the raison d'être of this feature, Asuka Tanaka, aka The Goofy Cute, is... well, not featured exactly, but she's quite involved with the first half of the episode.

What we get from her is like "Asuka's Greatest Hits", ranging from the Goofy to the master deflector, able to pass the buck on anything she doesn't want to deal with, to something of a new aspect: the cold-blooded assassin.

She actually does the cat-smile thing at one point, which was a little freaky I gotta admit.  She's also not above some cheek-pulling.  I don't remember either occurring during the first season, so there's that going on.

But its when one of the 2nd year students that quit the club last year asks for her blessing to rejoin that Dark Asuka pops up.  Not without a fight, however: she does everything she can to avoid the issue.  It's only the persistence of the other student that brings out Dark Asuka.  Her blessing?  Nope.  "I don't approve.  You wouldn't benefit the club."  All the while with a dead, dead look on her face.

It is telling, I believe, that the 2nd year student came right to Asuka first, rather than the club president.  I mean, we already know she's the power behind the throne and all, but still.  It's clear this is going to be the the season's first arc, which means plenty of Asuka.  This is nothing but a good thing in my mind, because we need to know more about her.

"We"... "I"... whichever. 

A word about this episode in general.  KyoAni pulled out all the stops with this one, particularly during the festival scene.  Holy crepe, did they go all out.

The festival is a riot of colors and hundreds of people, most of them animated, and all of it lighted by lanterns and fireworks.  It's very nearly movie quality at times.

We even get an Asuka sighting.  Alone and away from the festival. 

If you were wondering if Season 2 was going to measure up to Season 1, wonder no longer.  If it's anything like this episode, or even in the same area code, it's gonna be a fantastic three months.

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October 09, 2016

F1 Update!: Japan 2016

A gray, overcast day greeted the F1 Circus as they pulled up to the starting grid on Suzuka's front straight.  It had rained earlier in the day, and while most of the track was dry, there were still patches here and there that were discolored and slightly damp.  Most of these were on the inside of the front straight, the side that Lewis Hamilton would be starting the race from.  That's because his teammate Nico Rosberg was on pole.  Would that make a difference to Hamilton's start in this, a nearly must-win situation if he wanted to challenge for the Driver's Championship?  Or would he jump to the early lead?  Or would one of the resurgent Red Bulls, poised and ready on the second row, have something to say about the matter?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2016 Grand Prix of Japan!

: After the race, Lewis Hamilton said that the slightly damp track made no difference to his start.  That's unfortunate, for it means that he completely peed it down the leg of his firesuit on his own.  As Rosberg made a perfectly nice getaway, his teammate bogged down so hard it was like he was starting from the Goshikinuma Swamps.  Speaking of swamp, that's exactly what the field did to Hamilton, sending him plummeting to eighth place before Turn 1.  While he would soon begin the long process of digging himself out of the hole he had buried himself in, it looked like he would be lucky to be on the podium, let alone win.  Meanwhile, Rosberg took off into the distance ahead of Embryo Verstappen.  By Lap 4, he had a three second lead.

*THE MIDDLE:  And then the race settled down.  Most passing up at the front took place when people made their pit stops.  Indeed, most of the front runners had the lead at one time or another as their opponents stopped before them.  Even Hamilton had the lead for a lap at one point.  It was the final round of stops that proved to be the most important.

*TO THE END:  Thanks to a fast in-lap and a quick pit stop, Mercedes managed to get Hamilton back out onto track in fourth, just ahead of Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen.  A couple of laps later, Seb Vettel pitted from the lead and rejoined the race... in fourth, just behind Hamilton.  Suddenly the situation looked promising for the reigning Driver's Champion.  With 13 laps to go, he was on a fresh set of Hard tires, in third, and three seconds ahead was the second-place Red Bull of Embryo Verstappen.  He too was on Hard tires, but importantly they were some five laps older than Hamilton's.  The Mercedes driver was pushing like every lap was a qualifying lap, burning through his tires at a furious rate, all the while knowing that his target had to do the same thing to defend... and his tires were going to last longer.  With four laps to go, the strategy had paid off: he was a half-second behind the young Dutchman.

*THE END:  Hamilton needed to be glued to the gearbox of the Red Bull to have a shot at passing him down the front straight.  For a handful of laps, he would be in position at the start of the Casio Triangle chicane, but by the end he had lost enough ground that he couldn't quite make the move.  On the penultimate lap, he decided to force the matter.  Coming to the chicane, he feinted to the inside.  Verstappen duly placed himself so as to cover the move, and Hamilton made his real pass attempt to the outside... at which point, he went straight on, taking the run-off road through the chicane, rejoining quite a distance behind the youngster.  "He moved under braking" was the radio call from Hamilton immediately after.  After watching the replays more than a few times, it's pretty clear that the Red Bull driver did nothing of the sort.  Mercedes filed a protest with the Stewards, but later pulled it after Hamilton disagreed with it.  Apparently he watched the replays as well.

*THE VERY END:  Six seconds up the road from Verstappen cruised Nico Rosberg.  He had, essentially, led the race from beginning to end (pesky pit stop rotation excluded) with no threats past the first hundred meters of the race.  The win, combined with his teammate's third place finish, puts him 33 points up in the Driver's Championship with four races to go.  Even if Hamilton sweeps the rest of the season, if Rosberg finishes second he'll still win.  Meanwhile, their team, Mercedes, clinched their third Constructor's Championship on the trot.  True dominance.

When we next meet, we'll need our Stetsons and spurs, 'cause we'll be in Austin Texas for a Taylor Swift concert!  Oh, and the US Grand Prix, too... see ya then!

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October 08, 2016

Cubswatch 2016: That's Two.

When everybody is looking up and out...

...you know it's gone.  Kinda like a repeat of Game 1, except this home run was hit by relief pitcher Travis Wood to make score 5-2.  In doing so, he became the first reliever since 1924 to hit a playoff home run.  In fact, Cubs pitchers drove in three runs by themselves.  Unlike last night, this game never felt like it was ever in danger of getting away from them.  That's more like it!  Two down, nine to go.


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F1 Quals: Japan 2016

Well, that was fun!  Here's the provisional grid for the 2016 Grand Prix of Japan:

Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:31.858 1:30.714 1:30.647
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:32.218 1:31.129 1:30.660
3 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:31.674 1:31.406 1:30.949
4 Sebby Vettel Ferrari 1:31.659 1:31.227 1:31.028
5 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:32.487 1:31.489 1:31.178
6 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:32.538 1:31.719 1:31.240
7 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:32.682 1:32.237 1:31.961
8 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:32.458 1:32.176 1:31.961
9 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes 1:32.448 1:32.200 1:32.142
10 Esteban! Haas Ferrari 1:32.620 1:32.155 1:32.547
11 Valtteri Bottas Williams Mercedes 1:32.383 1:32.315
12 Retired Massa Williams Mercedes 1:32.562 1:32.380
13 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:32.645 1:32.623
14 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:32.789 1:32.685
15 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 1:32.819 1:32.689
16 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:32.796 1:32.807
17 Retired Button McLaren Honda 1:32.851

18 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:33.023

19 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:33.222

20 Felipe Not Massa Nasr Sauber Ferrari 1:33.332

21 False Esteban MRT Mercedes 1:33.353

22 Pascal's Wehrlein MRT Mercedes 1:33.561

Nico Rosberg beat his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to the line by .013 seconds.  On track, that works out to about 82 centimeters, or just a touch over 32 inches.  The Mercedes W07 Hybrid chassis is 197 inches long, as a reference... yeah, that's pretty close.  The video of the two lapping side-by-side is quite impressive.

Once again, we get two-by-two at the top of the grid: Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull.  Vettel has a three grid-spot penalty coming for his banzai charge at the start of the Malaysian GP, though.  It's amazing how the teams often break down that way.

The big news out of qualifying is the performance of Team Haas.  This is the first time they've gotten both cars into Q3 at once.  Sure, they didn't exactly cover themselves in glory in the session, but they were there.  You want evidence that the team is advancing as a race team?  There ya go.  The points at the start of the season were nice, but they were outclassed by the more experienced organizations fairly quickly.  Now they're starting to make gains on that front as well.  Nice to see.

The biggest disappointment had to be felt by McLaren-Honda.  After all, they're in Honda's home country, on the circuit owned and designed by Honda, and they've been coming to grips with their new engine all season.  And then they leave a mess on the carpet that even an Aismo wouldn't clean up.  That can't have gone over well at all.

So Rosberg gets the early advantage over Hamilton, on a track where such things are fairly important.  With the gap he has in points over his teammate, he's not going to be reluctant to muscle him around, either... if they both get knocked out by damage, well, that's just going to make the lead that much harder to cut down.  Not that Rosberg is going to do a Senna/Prost or anything, mind.

Race is late tonight/early tomorrow... I'll probably watch at least part of it live.  If anything important happens, I'll mention it here before the F1U!.  See ya later!

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October 07, 2016

Cubswatch 2016: That's One.

When everybody is looking up and out...

...you know it's gone.  Javy Baez took Johnny Cueto to the basket in left to break a scoreless tie in the bottom of the eighth.  That's the way the game ended, Cubs 1, Giants 0.  One down, ten to go.


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October 04, 2016

F1 on NBCSN: Japan 2016

From Sepang International Circuit, the F1 Circus packs up, trundles over to the Kuala Lumpur (Koala Lumper!) International Airport, just across the street.  From there, it's a surprisingly long 9-1/2 hour flight to Chubu Centrair International Airport, located on a manmade island just off the coast of Tokoname, Aichi, Japan.  After that, it's a simple 90 minute drive to the location of this week's race, Suzuka International Racing Course, home of the 2016 Grand Prix of Japan!  Here's the track map for this, my favorite circuit on the F1 calendar:

Once a fearsome beast of a track, it has been tamed somewhat in recent years.  The legendary 130R was straightened a bit via a double-apex turn, Degner was made into two turns instead of one big sweeping bend, and the final chicane was first added, then moved closer to 130R.  Despite all this, Suzuka is still one of the premiere tracks in F1, and the only one with a figure-8 layout.  Not that there's many of those worldwide or anything.

It's also one of the favorites of the drivers.  Not just because of the feeling that you're actually going somewhere, something you don't get at the Tilkedromes, but because of the Japanese fans.  Only at Monza might you find a more passionate bunch, and no fans are more knowledgeable.  And if there's a Japanese driver in the field?  Bedlam.  And if by chance he ends up on the podium?  You get the 2012 post-race experience, with the entire crowd chanting Gandalf Kobayashi's name.  Thrilling stuff.

While it's a late night race, the start isn't so late, and we have the Legendary Announce Team to keep us awake!  Here's the broadcast schedule:
Practice 2: 1201a - 130a  live on NBCSN
Quals: 1a - 230a  live on NBCSN
2016 Grand Prix of Japan: 1130p - 2a  live on NBCSN

All times Pond Central of course, because Pond Central time is best time!  And sometime after the race, F1 Update! will be along with another thrilling and exciting writeup of the race (note: may not be thrilling or exciting).  Join us, won't you?

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October 02, 2016

F1 Update!: Malaysia 2016

A slightly cloudy day greeted the assembled F1 Circus as they rolled into their positions on the starting grid.  It had even cooled off somewhat, all the way down to 91° with high humidity!  That was the ambient air temperature, though... the track surface, which radiates its heat like nobody's business, was 131°.  It was so hot that there were concerns that the tires would work very well, but degrade at an increased rate.  Polesitter Lewis Hamilton and his teammate Nico Rosberg, the current Driver's Championship points leader, were side-by-side, staring down at the first turn.  Which would seize the early advantage and be the first through it?  And would the twin Red Bulls, directly behind them, have anything to say about the matter?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2016 Grand Prix of Malaysia!

*LIGHTS... OUT?:  Before the race began, the heat was causing problems.  The Williams of Retired Massa stalled on the grid as the field went off on their recon lap and was pushed to the pit lane.  The team would get him restarted, but he would be forced to start from there.  That was probably for the best, because the start itself was a shambles.  First came a very long pause before the starting lights began to illuminate.  When the field is judged to be correctly positioned on the grid in preparation for the start, the Race Director presses a button.  That button triggers the start sequence, which includes a random amount of time from press to first light.  On this occasion, the random amount of time was the longest we've ever seen, somewhere between five and 10 seconds perhaps.  It was long enough that the Legendary Announce Team was assuming the start had been aborted for some reason.  When the five lights finally illuminated then extinguished, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg both made good getaways, the two Red Bulls slightly less so.  But the Ferrari of Seb Vettel, starting fifth, made a stormer and charged up the inside approaching the first turn.  The problem was, he didn't have the brakes to do what needed to be done and wound up running directly into the side of Rosberg as he began the turn.  The Mercedes wound up facing the wrong way and dead last, the Ferrari's front left suspension was turned to mashed potatoes, and Lewis Hamilton had to be thinking that he would be leading the championship in a couple of hours.

*THE MUDDLE IN THE MIDDLE:  While Hamilton cruised at the front of the field, the two Red Bull drivers were engaged in a knife fight for second that lasted most of the race.  First Smiley Ricciardo, then Embryo Verstappen, then Ricciardo again, held second place, while the other driver tried to figure out a way to get by without pissing off the pit wall.  At one point, the two of them were side-by-side going through the complex of twisty turns at the start of a lap at Sepang, but the Australian managed to hold on to second place at the end of it.  Meanwhile, the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen was lurking behind them.  Soon enough, however, Nico Rosberg was back and hounding the Ferrari driver for the spot.

*TEN SECONDS:  The two played fox and hound for a good while.  Rosberg, realizing his chances of a podium and trying to keep pace with his obviously-winning teammate in the championship, made a move on Lap 38.  He dove to the inside of a left-hand turn, hip-checked the Ferrari out of the way, and took the position.  The race stewards took a dim view of the physicality involved with the move and handed the Mercedes driver a 10 second penalty... meaning that amount of time would be added to his final amount.  If Raikkonen could finish within 10 seconds of him, he'd get fourth place, not Rosberg.  The Merc began to pull away, but slowly.

*KABLAMMO:  And then something occurred that changed everything

On Lap 40, a radio call came in from Lewis Hamilton: "Oh no, no, no, no!"  His engine lost power, a stream of smoke come from the rear, which was soon joined by a burst of flame, probably as the turbocharger grenaded itself.  His lead over second place was over 12 seconds at the time.  Suddenly the little tiff the two Red Bulls had had a few laps earlier was looking very important indeed, and the Rosberg/Raikkonen dust-up was for the the final step of the podium.

*THE END: Lap after lap, Verstappen lurked close behind Ricciardo, at one point even closing down to DRS range.  But either he couldn't make a move, or was told not to, because he eventually dropped back and finished the race a couple of seconds back.  Behind them, Kimi Raikkonen gave it a good effort, but eventually the advantages of the Mercedes took their toll and Rosberg opened his lead over the Ferrari to over 12 seconds and thus finished third.

*AFTERMATH:  "I can't believe that there's eight Mercedes-powered cars and only my engines have gone," Hamilton said afterwards.  "Something doesn't feel right.  But it's just odd.  There's been 43 engines for Mercedes and only mine have gone.  Someone has to give me answers, and it is not acceptable.  Something or someone doesn't want me to win this year."  Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a conspiracy theory!  Hamilton now trails Rosberg by 23 points with five races remaining and a maximum 125 points left to play for.  This is only the second race this season won by someone other than the Mercedes drivers, and both of those wins were by Red Bull. 

Next week, we're going to be in Japan, and you'd best believe that Hamilton is pissed.  We'll see you down the road!

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October 01, 2016

F1 Quals: Malaysia 2016

A threat of rain hung in the air at steamy Sepang, the home of the Malaysian Grand Prix.  The heat and humidity actually claimed Red Bull driver Embryo Verstappen, with the young driver passing out after exiting his car at the end of Practice 1.  Of course, that's nothing in comparison to the heat Kevin Magnussen had to deal with.  It was still hot for Quals, but would the impending rain affect the starting lineup?  Here's the provisional grid for the 2016 Grand Prix of Malaysia:

Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:34.444 1:33.046 1:32.850
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:34.460 1:33.609 1:33.264
3 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:35.443 1:33.775 1:33.420
4 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:35.079 1:33.888 1:33.467
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:34.557 1:33.972 1:33.584
6 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:34.556 1:33.903 1:33.632
7 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:35.068 1:34.538 1:34.319
8 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes 1:34.827 1:34.441 1:34.489
9 Retiring Button McLaren Honda 1:35.267 1:34.431 1:34.518
10 Retiring Massa Williams Mercedes 1:35.267 1:34.422 1:34.671
11 Valtteri Bottas Williams Mercedes 1:35.166 1:34.577
12 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:35.400 1:35.001
13 Esteban! Haas Ferrari 1:35.658 1:35.097
14 Torchy Magnussen Renault 1:35.593 1:35.277
15 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:35.695 1:35.369
16 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:35.605 1:35.374
17 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:35.816

18 FelipeNot Massa Nasr Sauber Ferrari 1:35.949

19 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:35.999

20 False Esteban MRT Mercedes 1:36.451

21 Pascal's Wager MRT Mercedes 1:36.587

22 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 1:37.155

Fernando Alonso changed multiple pieces of his engine and the gearbox, giving him a 45 grid spot penalty before Quals began.  As you can imagine, he didn't exactly go all out in his efforts today. 

Other than that?  It's all pretty much by rote.  The Mercs are clowning the rest of the field, Red Bull actually looks pretty decent (but not that decent), Ferrari is grumpy, and there's a whole lot of two-by-two going on all the way down the grid.

I'd love to be more excited about the race, but boy, it's looking awfully familiar right about now.  There's a lot of complaining about the reprofiled final turn... it's universally hated... but other than that, there may not be a whole lot of excitement.

F1Update! coming sometime Sunday... it's an early race, after all... look forward to it, won't you?

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September 28, 2016

F1 on NBCSN: Malaysia 2016

It often rains in Sepang, home of the 2016 Grand Prix of Malaysia.  In the past, though, the track had been less than stellar at drainage.  So the circuit owners had the bright idea to redo pretty much the entire track.  Here's the map:

Mostly it looks the same.  There's been a lot of subtle changes to the way the surface has been angled reportedly, so water will flow off faster.  In doing this, many of the racing lines have probably changed.  For example, the final turn, Turn 15, now has a fairly substantial negative camber... the inside of the turn is higher than the outside... so what's the fastest way through now?  Nobody really knows, since F1 hasn't raced here since the resurfacing.  And that's the story for most of the circuit now: it looks familiar, but looks can be deceiving.  In truth, the place needed it; most of the braking zones were washboard-like from all the bumps that have formed over the years.  That just can't be good when you're charging into a turn at nigh-on 200mph.

Sadly, none of this will matter a hill of beans.  This track, where even the so-called "slow sections" are really quite fast, is tailor-made for Mercedes, which already has the best car on the grid.  As more teams give up on this season... both Renault and Haas have stated that they've stopped development of their current chassis to concentrate entirely on 2017... the Mercs will either stay "just" as good or get better by comparison.  Oh, great.

Well, can't say I didn't warn you.  Want to know what the Legendary Announce Team thinks about it?  Here's the broadcast schedule!
Practice 2: 1a - 230a  live on NBCSN
Quals: 4a - 530a  live on NBCSN
2016 Grand Prix of Malaysia: 1a - 4a?  live on NBCSN

The questionmark at the end-time of the actual race is because my information sources are silent as to whether the race begins at 1a, or if that's the pre-race coverage.   Check your local listings for times in your area.  Post no bills.  Burma Shave.

In other fairly important news, Formula 1 has new owners.  The Liberty Media Group recently purchased a controlling share of F1 from CVC Capital Partners, with the rest of the shares to come down the pipe later.  The deal is expected to be worth in the neighborhood of $4.5 billion.  Bernie Ecclestone will remain as F1's CEO, but Chase Carey's mustache will be the Chairman.  Please note the name of the company: Liberty Media.  They've already said that they're going to be concentrating on how F1 is seen and consumed, with particular attention being paid to the United States.  Expect advertising blitzes and at least one more race here in America sooner rather than later.  Perhaps the Grand Prix of Weehawken will resurface...

See ya soonish!

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