July 10, 2011

F1 Update!: Britain 2011

Rules changes that may have been aimed directly at the Red Bull team didn't seem to slow them down at all in Quals.  But what would actually occur when the lights went out at Silverstone?  Would Ferrari kick Vettel to the curb?  Would McLaren make a remarkable comeback from a depressing qualifying stint?  Or would the rain come bucketing down like it did during practice, throwing everything into a tizzy?  THIS is your F1U! for the 2011 Grand Prix of Great Britain!

*LIGHTS OUT:  While it wasn't raining when the race began, just a few minutes before the back half of the track had been in the middle of a downpour.  Up at the start/finish line however the track was pretty much dry.  The entire field was on Intermediate tires, and with the way the weather had been at Silverstone for the past two days, nobody was sure if they'd have to change to full wets, move to slicks, or stay on the Inters, perhaps as soon as the end of Lap 1.  The weather was just that weird.  When the lights went out, polesitter Mark Webber made one of his patented Lousy Starts©, allowing his teammate, Seb Vettel, to rocket by him in a repeat of a scene we've seen all too many times this season.  Meanwhile, Ferrari's HWMNBN began living right behind the Australian driver, not quite able to get by but not letting his opponent get away.  Behind them, everything is thrown into a cocked hat.  McLaren's Lewis Hamilton picks up three places at the start, and by the end of the second lap is up to fifth, passing his teammate. 

*AND SO ON...: By Lap 10, it's clear that the track is just about ready for the normal slick tires... on the racing line at least.  Slappy Schumacher, fresh after discovering that wet pavement is slippery and misplacing his front wing somewhere in the side of Gandalf Kobayashi's Sauber, becomes the first to try the regular tires, followed by half the field on the next lap.  A few laps later, both Lotuses are out with problems with their Renault engines.  As these may very well be the first engine failures of the entire season, there is immediate thought that the new rules against the "throttle trick" are causing overheating.  On Lap 25, Gandalf pulls over, his engine cooked to a lovely shade of golden brown. 

*PIT MISFORTUNES:  Two weeks ago in Spain, all 24 cars that started the race finished, only the third time in the 61 year history of F1 that has ever occurred (the last time was in 2005).  A lot of that can be put down to the sterling work by the pit crews.  Not this race.  Kobayashi was handed a 10 second stop-and-go penalty for being released unsafely into the pit lane, taking with him a Force India airhose in the process.  In an unrelated incident, Force India's Paul diResta on lap 26 stopped for new tires... and discovered that the team had teammate Adrian Sutil's ready for him.  The screwed up pitstop cost him nine places, dropping from seventh to 16th.  We'll talk about what happened to Jenson Button later.  But then came the big mistake.  On Lap 27, Vettel pits from the lead with 2nd place HWMNBN a few seconds behind him.  Ferrari got their man in and out in a hurry, but the Red Bull mechanics had problems with an airgun.  HWMNBN, who was some seconds behind the young German champion at the beginning of the pitstop, sweeps by before the Red Bull driver has all four tires on and takes over the lead.

*CONTINUING DEVELOPMENTS:  At this point, the order is HWMNBN, Lewis Hamilton and Seb Vettel.  It still stands that was on Lap 32, but the Ferrari driver is a full seven seconds ahead of second place Hamilton, who has Vettel all over his rear wing.  Astonishingly, the Red Bull can't get past the obviously slower McLaren, allowing the Ferrari driver to open an 11 second lead in the space of a few laps.  Obviously frustrated, the Austrian team called their driver in for a pit stop on Lap 37, hoping that fresh tires and no McLaren in front of them will make a difference.  In response, Vettel turns in the lap of the day and when Hamilton came in for tires on the next lap, his mechanics take 0.2 seconds longer than Vettel's; this, combined with the lightning-fast out lap, allows the reigning World Champion to jump Hamilton on the pit exchange.  On Lap 40, HWMNBN pits from the lead for the final time, and when he rejoined the race still in the lead, it became clear that the churchbells would be busy in Maranello. 

*AND THEN...:  All a race driver wants to do is go fast.  That's what he does, after all... what else IS there to racing, when it comes right down to it?  So imagine what was going through Lewis Hamilton's head on Lap 44.  He's in third, having passed Ferrari's Felipe Massa to get there, but he has Mark Webber coming up behind him fast, and Seb Vettel is merely a couple of seconds ahead.  Of course he's going to want to run like the wind, right?  Then came the call from the pit wall: "Lewis, we need to conserve fuel if we're going to finish the race."  It appears that McLaren, gambling on a slower, less fuel-intensive wet race, didn't put enough gas into his car for the surprisingly quick-paced (mostly) dry race they got.  Two laps later, Webber cruised by the drastically slower Hamilton, kicking the 2008 Champion off the podium.  By Lap 49, another threat emerges: Felipe Massa's Ferrari has gained over seven seconds in three laps and appears to be drooling at the opportunity in front of him. 

*THIS IS THE END:  Much to everybody's surprise and delight, Hamilton might not have been the only one with fuel problems.  Mark Webber was making up time in huge gulps on Seb Vettel, maybe for the same reason the McLaren had slowed, or perhaps because the German's tires had gone off.  Whichever reason it was, on Laps 50 and 51, the two teammates begin to go at it hammer and tongs.  Only a slightly dangerous blocking maneuver kept the Aussie behind Vettel.  Back at the Red Bull pit wall, team principal Christian Horner has a heart attack and dies.  Recovering quickly, he immediately says enough of that.  The forceful radio call goes out on the final lap: "Mark, maintain the gap."  It turned out that Webber had been ignoring similar calls for a few laps to have a go at his teammate, but that final, failed, attempt brought the team's foot down... and with the rules against team orders being removed this season, nothing will happen to the team.  Of course, this is the team that last year got quite holier-than-thou when Ferrari told Felipe Massa that "(HWMNBN) is faster than you."  "We would never issue team orders under any circumstances," I believe was the gist of Horner's quote back then.  Yeah, about that...

*FIN: Whatever little dramas were going on behind him bothered HWMNBN not a whit, as he sailed across the finish line some 16.5 seconds ahead of the two Red Bull drivers for his first win since the 2010 GP of Korea.  His teammate however, he was locked in a tooth-and-nail fight for fourth with Hamilton.  The McLaren pilot was doing an incredible job of keeping the ridiculously faster Ferrari behind him until the last sequence of turns.  Then the Brazilian made his move to the outside of the Brit.  The two bumped twice and Massa was forced into the run-off area outside of the final turn.  A balls-out sprint ensued, with Hamilton crossing the line 0.024 seconds ahead of Massa for fourth place, bringing to an end a surprisingly eventful race.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  HWMNBN.  From hounding Webber at the start to keeping his head as people nicked places off him in the pits, the Spaniard stayed as cool as the other side of the pillow all race, and it paid off in spades with a dominating victory... but one that never really seemed all that dominate.  Do it again and we here at F1U! will begin to believe it, though.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  Ferrari.  From a miserable start to the season to nearly getting a 1-4 result, the red team from Maranello have got to be feeling pretty good right now.  Whether their sudden speed is a result of the new rules changes or from improvements in the car is a topic for another day.

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  On Lap 14, Jenson Button was hovering just behind Felipe Massa in 6th place as the two raced down the Hangar Straight.  Conditions were... um... dicey, to say the least, but that's the sort of track that Button enjoys racing on.  Into the 150mph Stowe corner they went, with Button making his move to the outside of the Ferrari.

Massa, despite a slight speed disadvantage, took some umbrage with this attempt and kept pushing the 2009 Champion farther and farther outside, until finally Button wasn't driving on the track at all, but on the painted section just off the circuit.

Somehow, Button managed to keep the car gripping the surface (unlike Gandalf Kobayashi in Friday's P1) as they raced down to Vale.  When Massa slid out to the racing line for the turn, Button pounced.

Barbecuing his front-left tire with his late braking, Button zipped past as the two entered Vale, and while Massa attempted a counterattack in Club, the McLaren had too much speed built up and ran away, bringing a truly professional pass to a close.  Well done, here's the MotR!

*MOOOOOOO-OOOVE OF THE RACE:  It seems appropriate that, given all the pitlane problems the teams had today, that the worst move of the race will be going to a pit crew member.  On Lap 40, Jenson Button was coming in for his final set of tires.  He was in fifth place, and had an outside shot at a podium position if everything went right.  Instead, everything went very very wrong.  The front-right air gun seemed to have a problem going from "loosen" to "tighten" as the old tire came off promptly, and the new tire put in place.  As the other three tires were bolted down however, the front-right gunner tried to lock the tire on the hub, and couldn't.  Immediately, he dropped the gun and began reaching for the backup.  The chief mechanic, also known as the "Lollypop Man" for the paddle-shaped "stop/go" board he wields, took the frantic scramble for a new gun to mean that the tire was safely attached, even though the usual notification for that is a neon-glove-covered hand held vertically above the tire.  The lollypop was lifted, and away went Button, exactly as he's supposed to do.  Before he got out of the pits, though...

Amazingly the tire never came completely off the hub, though only by the barest of margins.  He still had to park the car however, and the team was fined after the race for an unsafe release, to the tune of €5000.  From 5th to out, and a decent chunk of change to boot?  Yep, that's a Moooooo-ooove to the Lollypop Man!

*SELECTED DRIVER'S QUOTES OF THE RACE:

"60 years ago, Ferrari won their very first ever race here at Silverstone, and before today I got to drive that same car.  Now I win today?  Bring me your finest meats and cheeses!" - HWMNBN

"I've led so many laps this season, I've forgotten how to pass people.  I'll live with it." - Seb Vettel

"Am I okay with being told not to pass Seb?  I'm not fine with it, no.  That's the answer to that." - Mark Webber (note: real quote)

"The cheers of my countrymen propelled me across the line." - Lewis Hamilton

"Did you know my car's floor was damaged?  Well, it was." - Felipe Massa

"Did anybody notice I finished in sixth today?" - Nico Rosberg (note: no, not really)

"It was a good race, and I'm a prettyboy.  Life is awfully good right now." - Sergio Perez

"Kid probably can't even grow a beard, let alone one as nice as mine." - Grizzly Nick Heidfeld

"I never used to slide like that on wet pavement." - Slappy Schumacher

"Fast in the turns, slow on the straights... exactly the opposite of what you want at Silverstone." - NKOTT

"How'd I screw that one up?" - Adrian F'n Sutil

"I was quite quick but I felt helpless out there." - The Red Menace (note: real quote)

"It was hard to keep the car on the road in the wet.  Furthermore, whaaaaaaaaaaaa." - Rubens Barrichello

"We were set up for a dry race.  Whoops." - Protopriest Maldonado

"25 seconds to change tires.  Good lord, I could have gotten out and done it faster myself." - Paul di Resta

"Did you see me on Top Gear last week?  No?  That's because I wasn't actually on camera... kind of like this entire season." - Tim O'Glockenspiel

"It was difficult in the first stint.  The second stint was okay.  Then it was very difficult in the third stint.  It's almost like I'm driving a bad car." - Custard d'Ambrosio

"I am driving a bad car." - Vitantonio Liuzzi

"My first F1 race and I didn't finish last!  Yay!" - Daniel Ricciardo

"It's a wheel nut, guys.  How hard can it be?" - Jenson Button

"Man, did you see that tire rip the rear of my car apart?  Pretty cool, huh?" - Seb Buemi

"It was an oil leak that caused my engine to die.  Caused by an overheated exhaust valve blowing through the oil pan, I expect." - Gandalf Kobayashi

"Oil leak.  Yeah, let's go with that." - Jarno Trulli

"The first lap was great!  Then fourth gear turned into metal shavings and my race was over." - Heikki Kovaleinninninninnie

And so with the Red Bull monster kept at bay for a third time this year, we leave Silverstone and head back across the Channel for the next race in Germany.  See you in two weeks!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 08:57 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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1

I was looking at the season results. Even though RBR didn't come in first today, they came in 2/3. And just shy of halfway through the season, frankly it would take a miracle for anyone to bet Vettel in the driver competition or RBR in the team competition.

McLaren is 110 points behind RBR, at 66% of RBR's score. Ferarri is 164 points behind, 50%.

Webber is 80 points behind Vettel, 61% of Vettel's score. HWMNBN is 92 points behind, 55%.

Short of disaster or catastrophe, I don't see how anyone can make back that kind of deficit. Maybe someone besides Vettel and RBR will win some of the remaining races. But as long as Vettel and Webber keep finishing in the top ten, RBR is going to run away with the season.

You say that Red bull was kept at bay. But RBR made 33 points today, to 35 for Ferarri. That isn't going to cut it for the Italians, who need to make up 164 points just to tie.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at July 10, 2011 11:26 PM (+rSRq)

2 Oh, no question Steven.  As it stands at the moment, Seb Vettel could DNF the next three races and still hold the lead.  The only way that would happen is if he was injured, and as much as I want to see a competition, I don't want THAT.

No, the season is over.  Now it's just a question of how many times Red Bull (or Vettel) is kept off the top step.

Posted by: Wonderduck at July 10, 2011 11:43 PM (3tp4g)

3 Awesome F1Update as always!!!  In fact, I read it before I saw the race.  When, oh when, will F1 return to Speed???

Posted by: Mallory at July 11, 2011 03:01 PM (WJ2qy)

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