November 11, 2011

F1 Practice: Abu Dhabi 2011

A sunny early evening at Abu Dhabi greeted the F1 Circus as they took to the circuit for Friday's second practice, and it appears that something unexpected has occurred.  The combination of Pirelli tires and a race run in both day and night may not be the most awesome thing ever.  Everything was fine and dandy while the sun was up and the track was warm... but when night fell and the asphalt began to cool, the Pirellis just sort of surrendered any vestige of grip they may have had. 

First, Mark Webber looped his Red Bull underneath the hotel.  Then his teammate, the reigning Driver's Champion Seb Vettel, lost it heading into Turn 1, sliding all the way across the vast expanse of runoff area until he gorked his car into the SAFER-like barriers.  He was unhurt, but the right side of the Red Bull was toast.  About ten minutes after this, HWMNBN came racing down towards Turn 1 and not only did he lose it just like Vettel, he wound up planting his Ferrari into virtually the same place as the Red Bull. In the Spaniard's case, he wound up going into the barriers backwards, causing untold amounts of damage to the hazard flasher.  Throw in Felipe Massa nearly reaching the barrier in P1 and Lewis Hamilton nearly having an exciting moment in P2, and you start to notice a trend here. 

Other than that little bit of data, the other interesting thing that crawled out of the Abu Dhabian desert is that neither Red Bull was particularly fast around the track today.  Jenson Button lead the way in P1, Hamilton in P2... with the two Red Bullies ending up 5th and 6th.  I've always said you can't trust practice times, and I'll stand by that statement, but you don't usually see a Red Bull a full half-second behind the leader in any session for any reason.  I'll keep an eye on this, but for some reason I'm still expecting to see Sebby on pole after Q3 comes to an end on Saturday.

Meanwhile, we learned that Sauber's Pastor Maldonado is going to take a 10-spot grid penalty for Sunday's race.  He's had to use a ninth engine on the season when you only get eight.  Vaya con dios, Sauber and kiss that seventh place in the Constructor's Championship goodbye as Toro Rosso is looking awfully decent so far. 

I mentioned earlier that the difference between 5th and 8th place in the Constructor's Championship is measured in the tens of millions of dollars.  Oddly enough, the Legendary Announce Team was talking about that very topic today.  While the actual numbers are shrouded in mystery and skullduggery, whispers suggest that last year, Red Bull was awarded some $85 million for winning the Constructor's Championship... and Williams' sixth place earned them a $60 million check from Darth Bernie's bank account.  Some $660 million was paid out to all the teams in 2010.  Understand this: $60 million would be enough to fund some TEN high-ranking NASCAR teams for an entire year.  Yeah, there's some money floating around F1.

Quals in the morning, see ya then!

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