June 11, 2017

F1 Update!: Canada 2017

A warm, sunny, and very very windy day greeted the Thundering Herd as they rolled onto the grid at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.  Indeed, it was so windy that a few laps into the race drivers were reporting that they couldn't get to 8th gear coming down the back straight where they had a 30mph breeze in their faces.  While dramatic, it didn't seem to have any obvious effect otherwise.  Lewis Hamilton, second in the driver's championship, was on pole but his rival Seb Vettel was next to him, but ahead in the points.  Their teammates were directly behind them, and then the rest of the field, but one got the feeling that this race was going to be 70 laps of racing between those two for the win, and everybody else was fighting for third.  THIS is your F1Update! for the 2017 Grand Prix of Canada!


*LIGHTS OUT:  What we actually got was a race that lasted exactly one corner.  The leaders all made good starts, but Red Bull's Embryo Verstappen made an excellent one from sixth... in drag racing terms, he had the hole shot... and immediately was fighting with Vettel and Bottas for second.  Bottas went inside, Vettel followed the line in the center of the circuit... and then Verstappen went around the outside and cut across the Ferrari's nose.  The result of this was Embryo in second, Vettel in fourth, and a completely ruined front-right nosewing on the red car.  This did not have any obvious immediate effect however, as the race went under a safety car a couple of turns later.  Carlos Sainz Jr made an unwise move that took him across the nose of Lettuce Grosjean's Haas and tipped himself into a lurid spin on the thin strip of grass short of Turn 3.  Unfortunately, grass is terrible for braking and it seemed like his Toro Rosso hadn't slowed at all when it shot through Turn 3 backwards, collecting Felipe Not Retired Massa as he did.  This incident brought out the safety car.

*...THE HELL?:  The race stayed under the guidance of Berndt Maylander for three laps.  Those laps would have been a perfect opportunity to bring Vettel in for a replacement nose, for Verstappen had well and truly borked the original.  The endplate on the right side was essentially missing, and the 37 (estimated) vertical elements were all askew and adrift, practically flapping in the breeze.  This is not a good arrangement for downforce.  When the race restarted, the front wing began to shed pieces and Vettel lost an immense amount of time to the leaders in just a lap or two.  Ferrari finally brought him in on Lap 6, five laps later than they should have.  When he rejoined the race, he was 18th out of the 18 running cars and Mercedes where writing a check to Verstappen for handing them the race giftwrapped on a silver platter.  A handful of laps later, the Red Bull driver's day came to an end when his engine just... stopped working.  It was later revealed that his battery had failed, but for whatever reason it was, Lewis Hamilton's only realistic challenger (no matter how unlikely) had just been removed from the field.

*IN THE MIDDLE:  As the race progressed, it became more and more obvious that Hamilton was going to win barring car failure.  The only question was by how much?  His teammate, Valterri Bottas pitted for tires on Lap 22, passing second place over to the Force India of False Esteban!, then some 18 seconds behind the leader.  The reigning World Champion finally pitted on Lap 32, rejoining the race still in the lead as False Esteban! followed him into the pits for his own tire change.  The Force India had lost 10 seconds in those 10 laps.  Meanwhile Seb Vettel had made it all the way up to seventh place, though mostly because he was off the pit rotation having stopped early.  Things settled down for the next 20 laps or so.

*TOWARDS THE END:  Around about Lap 52 or so, Hamilton led his teammate by about 12 seconds, and he was 14 seconds ahead of Red Bull's Smiley Ricciardo and the two Force Indias of Sergio Perez and False Esteban!.  There was about a second covering third, fourth and fifth, and the two pink cars looked to be hungry for a podium.  Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen was 10 seconds behind them, with Vettel a few seconds back of his teammate and charging hard.  It came as no surprise when Raikkonen came down with a sudden "brake problem" that allowed Sebby to go past and begin hunting down the fight for third.

*THE FIGHT FOR THIRD:  Smiley Ricciardo has never been particularly known for driving a wide car, so if the Force Indias could close up they had a great chance to pass him for a podium position.  False Esteban! was on substantially fresher tires than his teammate, and logically had a better chance to accomplish the task.  However, for lap after lap Sergio Perez stayed in front of his teammate, unable to pass the Red Bull.  The Legendary Announce Team began to criticize the team for not invoking team orders to get False Esteban! into position... but they had.  The team told Sergio Perez to let his teammate by and if False Esteban! couldn't make the pass, Perez would be allowed to take the position back... and Perez said no.  The battle was coming up on traffic, and he surely would be able to take the Red Bull then.  Various attempts by both Force Indias to make passes let Vettel catch up and we had four cars fighting for third place.  Eventually, False Esteban! tried a desperate lunge past his teammate and wound up adrift and floundering.  Not only did he let Perez take the position back, he let Vettel go by him too.  It took only another lap or so for Vettel to dispose of Perez and take fourth.  Considering that he was dead last early, this was an astounding performance for Vettel.

*ALONSO AGONY:  It's no news that McLaren is having a horrible year.  With a Honda power unit that's so down on horsepower that their two cars were literally 10mph slower down the back straight than the leaders, it's been dismal... or it would be, if their engines didn't keep failing on them.  Today, though, things looked different.  Indy Alonso, fresh off his Honda engine failure at the Indianapolis 500 two weeks ago, was in 10th place with five laps to go.  Now, 10th is hardly anything to write home about, but this would be the team's first point of the season.  There's no question that Alonso is working miracles with this car to get it even that high in the standings.  Which made it doubly painful when, on Lap 69 of 70, we saw his McLaren roll to a stop with a radio call of "no engine, the engine turned off."  Agonizingly, the power unit had failed Alonso again.  In a moment that could symbolize the new attitude F1 has towards its fans, Alonso left his car and went up into the grandstands to hang out and give his gloves away.

*FINALLY:  Even though Vettel had cleared the two Force Indias for fourth place, there was no time left for him to challenge Smiley for third.  He finished just under a second behind the Australian driver in a marvelous example of damage limitation.  Lewis Hamilton led his teammate home by nearly 20 seconds, and he was 19 seconds ahead of Smiley.  An easy race for the Mercedes guys, and one that might terrify Ferrari just a little bit.

In two weeks, we meet again in Baku for the second Grand Prix of Azerbaijan.  We'll see you there!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 11:48 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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1 Oof, what a mess. How ironclad is that Honda powerplant deal for the teams using them? Seems like teams are gonna be shopping elsewhere, ANYWHERE else, at this rate.

Posted by: GreyDuck at June 12, 2017 07:45 AM (rKFiU)

2 Well, right now McLaren is the only team using Honda p.u.'s.  The rumors that they're going to bail and head to another manufacturer next season lay thick upon the ground these days.

Posted by: Wonderduck at June 12, 2017 07:58 AM (C93gM)

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