August 25, 2018

F1 Quals: Belgium 2018

Overcast, gray and cloudy.  No, not the skies over Duckford for most of the past week, the skies over Spa-Francopants today!  The FIA Weather Minstrels said there was a 90% chance of rain during today's Quals, which meant we had a great chance of it not raining ever again at Spa... that's how inaccurate those predictions usually are.  But rain it did, and hoo boy, did it pay off!  Here's the provisional grid for tomorrow's Grand Prix of Belgium:

Pos Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:42.977 1:41.553 1:58.179
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:43.035 1:41.501 1:58.905
3 False Esteban! Force India Mercedes 1:44.003 1:43.302 2:01.851
4 Lawsuit Perez Force India Mercedes 1:44.004 1:43.014 2:01.894
5 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:43.597 1:43.042 2:02.122
6 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:42.585 1:41.533 2:02.671
7 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing
1:43.199 1:42.554 2:02.769
8 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing
1:43.604 1:43.126 2:02.939
9 DP Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:43.834 1:43.320 2:04.933
10 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:42.805 1:42.191 DNS
11 Pierre Ghastly Toro Rosso
1:44.221 1:43.844
12 Brendon Hartley  Toro Rosso
1:44.153 1:43.865
13 Charles AMX-30 Sauber Ferrari 1:43.654 1:44.062
14 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:43.846 1:44.301
15 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:44.145 DNS

16 Carlos Sainz Renault 1:44.489

17 Indy Alonso McLaren Renault 1:44.917

18 Sergey, Sir Otkin Williams Mercedes 1:44.998

19 Veruca Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:45.134

20 Stoffelwaffle McLaren Renault 1:45.307


Sure, the top two positions aren't anything to get worked up about, except that Hamilton becomes the first driver to ever have five poles at Spa (big deal).  But what happened next... now there's the interesting stuff!

You may remember my offhand comment that Force India went into receivership and nearly died, yes?  Well, while it had been purchased, there turned out to be something of a confusion, as so often occurs when money is involved in Formula 1.  I've read everything I could on the matter, and what I THINK it works out to is that the purchasing group bought the team, but not the actual FIA Entry to allow the team onto the grid.  Or something like that.  So here's this group of moneymen that has just purchased everything they needed to have a Formula 1 team, but due to some technicality or other, they couldn't do anything with it.

As I left for work Thursday morning Pond Central Time, nobody was sure if the pink cars were going to be on the grid.  They were there, their trucks and motorhomes without liveries, but that was all they were.  Various votes were taken, and the teams unanimously decided to allow them to race.  But, since the team had changed hands, the decision was made to declare them a new team and Force India, now known as Racing Point Force India, has had their constructor's championship points stripped.  Their drivers kept their points, however.  Because of this, an amusing conundrum arose.  See, the technical regulations say nothing about a situation like this.  An argument was put forth that, since they were a new team, the engine allocations for the cars should be reset to zero... that is, all the engine pieces Force India had used (three ICE apiece for each driver, the annual limit before penalties start accruing) would no longer count against the team since they were being considered a new entity!  After some frantic hemming and hawwing, the logical answer was reached: since the drivers were being allowed to keep their points, so too should the engine count carry over.  This is, of course, the right answer, but I think they came to it for the wrong reason.  I think it was made clear a couple of years ago that the engine count is tied to the car, not the driver.  Otherwise, a driver put in the seat to replace another would have zero engine usage.  In any case, logic says this is the correct answer, but logic usually has little place in Formula 1. 

The upshot of all of this is that Force India, after a week where nobody knew if they were going racing or not, after a summer break where nobody knew if they were going to exist as a team or not, took third and fourth on the grid today.  I think that's got to count up there with the greatest performances of all time, right?  From dead to Row 2 in one week?  Hell yeah.

Anyway, the rains DID come, just seconds after Q3 began and everybody went out on slicks.  And the rains came in buckets, too.  Drivers were tiptoeing around that first lap, particularly after Valterri Bottas lost control of his Mercedes while driving in a straight line.  He didn't hit anything, which counts as some minor miracle.  Anyway, everybody dove into the pits for rain boots... everybody but Force India, either through mistake or just sheer bloody-mindedness.  It didn't go well.  The track was pretty much unable to be driven on with slicks, as Lawsuit Perez proved when he only just missed turning his car into very small carbon fiber shards at the top of Eau Rouge/Radillion.  In what counts as a masterpiece of understatement, Perez later described it as a "pants sh*tting moment".

After crawling back around, the team was in no rush to send them back out, and for a wonder the rains stopped and the circuit immediately began to dry.  Times began plummeting, and the pink cars were released at what turned out to be pretty much the perfect moment.  A short span of time later, and the second row was theirs.  While it's true that Force India has always done well here... remember their pole in 2009?... this has got to rank among their finest moments anyway.

Pay no attention to the massive time gap between Row 1 and 2... both Hamilton and Vettel took even greater advantage from the rapidly drying track, is all.  Tomorrow's race should be a humdinger, you betcha.  See ya then!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 08:02 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
Post contains 993 words, total size 24 kb.

1 Okay, that is WILD. Way to go, plucky little necromantic racing team!

Posted by: GreyDuck at August 26, 2018 08:53 AM (rKFiU)

2 ..after a few years of being highly entertained by your writeups, I have finally found (1) someone to hate [Hamilton] and a team to cheer for [India-Your-Name-Here].   Guess that means I'm officially a fan now. 

Posted by: DougO at August 26, 2018 12:09 PM (QFF/9)

3 Force India is definitely a team worth expending emotion upon, yes.  They're the survivor.  While other new teams have come and gone... HRT?  Manor/Marussia?  Caterham?  SuperAguri?... Force India arose from the ashes of the Spyker/Midlands failure to become, after years of effort, a good team.  
They'll get a win one of these days, I'm sure of that.  When?  Dunno... they'll need something to happen, something revolutionary, and it's hard to predict that sort of thing... but it'll happen.  Or (currently) they need some sort of wipeout crash that removes both Ferrari and Mercedes from a race... not impossible, particularly if DH Verstappen is nearby.

Posted by: Wonderduck at August 26, 2018 03:22 PM (fkA8k)

4 One of these days, on a track with elevation changes, I expect to see Verstappen come flying over a hill, Bo and Luke-style.  What happens upon impact, I don't want to predict.

Posted by: Thomas at August 26, 2018 10:34 PM (mSIXR)

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