March 16, 2014

F1 Update!: Australia 2014

While there were clouds overhead at Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, there was nothing but blue sky and sunshine in the hearts of F1 fans everywhere.  As the purring herd formed up on the grid, one got the feeling that something exciting, something big, was about to happen at this, the first race of the new season.  Did it?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2014 Grand Prix of Australia!

*AND THEY'RE OFF... NOT SO FAST!:  The way a F1 race begins is relatively simple.  The cars perform a recon lap around the circuit and then takes their places on the starting grid.  When the last of the 22 cars comes to a halt and the field is deemed ready, race director Charlie Whiting presses a button on his console which begins an automated process: five red lights come on, one after another.  Once all five are illuminated, a computer-selected random amount of time passes before the lights go out.  When the lights wink off, the race begins.  Today, however, this didn't happen.  Instead, the cars formed up, and just as the first red light began to illuminate, a track marshal began frantically waving a yellow flag towards the back of the grid.  After a moment, Whiting pressed one of the other buttons on his console.

Two solid green lights and three flashing yellows designate an aborted start.  Everybody went around for another lap while the second Marussia of the day was rolled off the track to start from the pit lane (the first Marussia didn't start before the first recon lap).  So now we had to do it all over again.  Little did we know that trouble was brewing.

*AND THEY'RE OFF... WAIT, HOLD UP...:  This time, the red lights came on, stayed on for a decent amount of time, then extinguished, starting the 2014 F1 season with a loud-ish growl from 19 V6 turbo-powered engines, and a purr from the three cars starting from the pit lane.  In the run down to Turn 1, McLaren's rookie Kevin Magnussen had a good start, diving from the inside of the track to the outside in a calm, controlled fashion... or at least, that was the plan.  Instead, he wound up like this:

Amazingly, he didn't hit the wall, nor did the Ferrari of HWMNBN impale itself into the side of the McLaren.  Instead, he gathered the car up and was threatening Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes by the time they reached the first turn.  Further back in the field, though, F1U! favorite Gandalf Kobayashi was discovering that he had a problem.  It wasn't that he was driving a Caterham, having turned down an offer from Ferrari to drive sports cars for them, but that his Caterham had no brakes.  One can imagine how much of a disadvantage this could be for a F1 driver.  Fortunately, there were convenient methods of slowing down right in front of him... a Ferrari and the Willams of Felipe Massa.

Both Gandalf and Massa were out as soon as they stopped bouncing.  Up at the front of the race, though, things were proceeding apace... except that both Shiv Hamilton and Hannibal Vettel were complaining about their cars.  Hamilton's Mercedes just sounded wrong, and was being passed with ease.  Vettel's Red Bull didn't sound particularly unwell, but he was saying that he had "no K", meaning the new KERS-style hybrid system.  Unlike the old KERS unit, the new one can't be simply switched off; it's an integral part of the Power Unit.  The first lap ended with Nico Rosberg leading Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo, Magnussen, a fading Hamilton, Force India's Nico Hulkenberg, and HWMNBN.

*...AND THEN:  Two different radio calls left the F1U!'s coverage team stunned.  Both Mercedes and Red Bull called in their lead drivers (Hamilton and Vettel, respectively), telling them their races were over.  Hamilton was only running on five cylinders; Vettel was running on not much of anything at all.  Both expected-to-be contenders for the World Championship were out of the race by Lap 5.

*SAFETY CAR:  The race continued mostly as expected until around Lap 10, when the surviving Williams of Valteri Bottas, in a struggle for fifth with HWMNBN, gave the outside wall a nice stiff tap with the right-rear.  A few moments later, a massive stroke of luck befell the Finn.

Yes, luck indeed.  The whap broke the tire rim, allowing the failed tire to fall off altogether, as opposed to the more common "shred-and-flail" method of failure that tears up any nearby bodywork and often means the end of the victim's race.  While in this case Bottas lost nigh on 10 positions, he was at least able to continue with no obvious damage.  When the safety car was summoned so the tire carcass and associated debris could be recovered, the field was bunched back up, meaning it would be easier for the Williams to make an impact on the race.

*BACK TO WORK: To be honest, the rest of the run was something of an anticlimax.  Nico Rosberg owned this race from Turn 1, and after the restart he was putting a second per lap onto his lead over Ricciardo, who was only a second or two ahead of Kevin Magnussen, who had decent gap back to his teammate, Jenson Button.  The driver to watch, though, was definitely Bottas who quickly began to work his way back up the field.  by Lap 35, he was up to 5th place, though a pit stop dropped him back to eighth.  By the end of the race, though, he had managed to get back to 6th, the best finish for Williams since the 2012 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi.  Nearly a half-minute up the road, however, Rosberg had finished first, followed by Ricciardo, Magnussen, Button, and HWMNBN.  An easy and, really, an expected, victory for Mercedes, though a surprising result for Red Bull who just a few days ago were saying that they considered just finishing the race to be their goal.

*AND THEN: A few hours later came the news.  Daniel Ricciardo's RB10 had been found to be running a fuel flow sensor that had been brought before the FIA and found to be giving invalid results.  The FIA had told the team they couldn't use it and Red Bull used it anyway.  They were then warned before the race not to use it and were allowed to change it... and they used it anyway.  After the race, Ricciardo was duly excluded from the results, having his 2nd place finish stripped and promoting Button up to the third step of the podium.  Red Bull is appealing the decision.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Nico Rosberg should probably be given this, considering his lights-to-flag win, but instead we'll give it to Valteri Bottas for his gritty drive.  What would have happened if he hadn't've clonked the wall?

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  McLaren.  Last year was their worst season since 1980, with zero podiums and, indeed, never even looking like a threat for a podium.  Today?  A 2-3 finish, with their rookie driver on the higher step.  That's gotta bode well for the team from Woking.

*MOMENT OF THE RACE
:  This new category won't necessarily be the most important moment, or the most dramatic, or even the most obvious, moment of a particular race, but the one that sticks in the head of the F1U! Team.  Today's moment is brought to you by the front jackman / Mohel for Team McLaren's pit crew.

Ladies and gentlemen, the first circumcised F1 car.

*SELECTED DRIVERS QUOTES OF THE RACE
:


"Well, that was pretty much perfect, wasn't it?" - Nico Rosberg

"          " - Daniel Ricciardo

"Like, it's just crazy!" - Kevin Magnussen

"
-Jenson Button

"That was a strange race." - HWMNBN

"The car performed very well today." - Valteri Bottas, master of understatement

"That's the first time I've ever finished in Australia!" - Nico Hulkenberg

"mrmrmrblrlmr mmrmrbllbrlm mr mrmrrbrbbrbrlrrnbrl mrmrmr." - Kimi Raikkonen

"How many prisoners in solitary confinement become idiots, if not mad, for want of exercise for the thinking faculty" - Jules Vergne

"I just set the record for the youngest driver in F1 history to earn a point.  Guy who's record I broke?  Some bloke named Vettel." - Kid Kvyat

"For some reason, people want to punch me in the face.  I have no idea why." - Sergio Perez

"My girlfriend is named Jennifer.  You might want to google her.  I definitely outkicked my coverage." - Adrian Sutil

Two weeks from now, we wing our way to Malaysia... oh.  Um.  Maybe we'll take a ship instead.  See ya then!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 03:56 PM | Comments (6) | Add Comment
Post contains 1444 words, total size 10 kb.

1

Both McLaren's and both Ferrari's ended up in the points, so we know the world isn't coming to an end.

But both Toro Rosso's and both Force India's ended up in the points and neither Red Bull did, which strongly suggests we're going to have an interesting season! Looks like all the rule changes shuffled the deck enough so things are getting interesting again.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at March 16, 2014 08:13 PM (+rSRq)

2 I gather that the sensor situation was a little more complicated. I read up on it and I think I get what happened (the stewards issued a play-by-play statement).

Apparently the flow regulation is new and the sensors are only accurate within a certain band. RB had a sensor that suddenly started giving them different readings during P1 when they hadn't changed anything, and read the same thing during P2. RB swapped the sensor, but the results "weren't satisfactory to either Red Bull or the FIA," whatever that means - maybe the new one was more borked than the original? So they were permitted to re-install the original sensor after Quals.

The rules actually cover what to do when this sensor goes bad. Option 1 is to have the stewards figure out which direction it's off and use the sensor's value plus a correction mandated by the stewards. (So if you have a thermometer you know reads three degrees high, you can say "just take what it reads, lop three degrees off it, and that's your figure.") Apparently other teams encountered a similar issue, got their correction, and applied it during the race properly.

Option 2 is for the team to use its internal flow model to perform the estimates. This is likely more accurate (their engine, after all), but also counts on the team not to fudge the numbers internally. Crucially, you can only use Option 2 if the FIA instructs you to do so.

The key here is that the FIA said "go with Option 1" and RB went with Option 2. So the sensor plus the correction said "you are over the flow limit" while RB's internal model said "we're under the limit". Pretty small beer here, especially given that we have no idea how much they're alleged to have exceeded that limit by - the FIA did not publish those numbers.

That said, the FIA -did- notice that the sensor was logging numbers that, after correction, indicated the RB was pushing too much fuel to the engine, and told RB to knock it off, mid-race. RB did not do so. (Presumably RB did not believe they were actually pushing too much fuel...)

It's interesting because this is definitely something that affects performance and there's real potential for a team to get screwed by an inconsistent sensor and a conservative call from the stewards on how much to correct. If the stewards come into the pit lane and say "yeah, you need to reduce your fuel flow by 4% because we're having trouble measuring it", you can expect the team to get a little snippy with them on the issue, especially when the whole problem is caused by FIA's own crappy sensor. On the other hand, you don't get to tell the stewards "screw your rules" unless you drive a red car with a horse on it, right? So... probably a bad call by the stewards to require Option 1 in the first place, but very bad call by Red Bull to ignore the instructions and the warning.

Apologies if I've accidentally screwed up any of the above. Also, if someone can explain why they bother limiting the fuel flow in the first place, I'd appreciate it.

Posted by: Avatar at March 17, 2014 04:47 AM (IopVv)

3 Avatar, thank you.  None of it contradicts what I said, but thank you.

Posted by: Wonderduck at March 17, 2014 06:23 AM (41uEd)

4 in the great tradition of "someone is wrong on the internet" I must point out that Avatar's explanation does contradict what you said, you said that rbr was told not to use a sensor, but did anyway, when in fact, they DID use the sensor they were told to do, they just chose to ignore it's data, because they're used to getting away with bending the rules.

Posted by: diamaunt at March 17, 2014 10:00 AM (U+KP+)

5 That's not a great tradition.

Posted by: Avatar at March 17, 2014 01:27 PM (zJsIy)

6 ...half-decent comic, though.

Posted by: Mikeski at March 18, 2014 11:40 PM (Zlc1W)

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